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Eclipse: A Novel Paperback – February 5, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Irish author Banville (The Book of Evidence; The Untouchable) is one of the most seductive writers currently at work. His books are so intensely imagined and freshly observed, with a startling image or insight on every page, that story almost ceases to matter. In fact, his tale here is tenuous in the extreme. Alexander Cleave is a successful actor because only in performance can he hide his essential hollowness, his sense of his own intangibility. When his career starts to falter, he retreats to his childhood home in a small town by the sea and tries to learn to live with himself, to discover who he really is. Into this existential anguish intrude memories of his parents, his estranged wife, his emotionally damaged daughterDand the ghosts of people he may not even know, but to whose sadness he is attuned. He begins an uneasy relationship with a slovenly caretaker, Quirke, and Quirke's enigmatic teenage daughter, Lily; he is visited by his wife; he goes to a strangeDand magnificently evokedDcircus with Lily; he receives terrible news about his daughter. There is by no means a surfeit of incident, and the book never falters or creates impatience because every scene, every moment, is so alive, so exquisitely lit, felt and polished, that to read among them is like listening to great music. And when Banville does choose toward the end to raise the emotional temperature, the effect is deeply moving. (Feb. 28) Forecast: Banville will probably never be a hugely popular writer, and The Eclipse, unlike The Untouchable, is not structured along conventional lines. But perceptive reviews and the support of people who love exquisitely turned prose will help to slowly build his readership.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The Banvillian narrator is often antisocial to the point of alienating his own audience. Armed with perfect diction, he uses language to hole up in an exclusive, hopelessly cool state of mind where the well-adjusted are unwanted. Esteemed stage actor Alexander Cleave is the latest in a line of haunted white males from Banville (The Untouchable). Beleaguered by a premonition of death, he quits the summer tour to live in his dilapidated childhood home, much to his wife's contempt. Although his seemingly irrational fears do have a climax, it will leave readers dumbfounded. This has a lot to do with the misleading "plot"Aa tedious chain of Alexander's memories about his tortured mother and aloof father. Banville's leading man is at his best when he plays a caring father to the housekeeper Quirke's daughter, but this comes too late. Not recommended.
-AHeather McCormack, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725296
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #830,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on March 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In this beautifully realized and complex book, Banville blurs the edges between a man's interior and exterior worlds. He draws the reader in at the same time that he holds him at arm's length and creates a book both realistic and surrealistic. In many ways this resembles a memoir more than a novel, and it's a haunting story of a man's search for himself.

Virtually all the "action" in this novel takes place inside the head of Alexander Cleave, and the "story," such as it is, emerges at a snail's pace. An actor who has "dried" onstage, Cleave has escaped to his childhood home to come to terms with his inner self and try to deal with his worry about his disturbed daughter Cass, with whom he has had no communication for months. In the midst of a breakdown, he cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, acting and action. He sees ghosts, spend a great deal of time sleeping and dreaming, and shadows townspeople at random, living their lives vicariously.

His alterego is Quirke, the sloppy caretaker, and his equally untidy daughter Lily. Creatures of the moment, the Quirkes are not at all introspective, indulging their basic desires without thinking about them and living entirely in the commonplace, the ordinary--they buy groceries, do superficial cleaning, go to the pub, read magazines. Only Lily's melancholy, which Cleave also associates with his daughter, suggests that she may have a nascent inner life.

If this sounds dull and abstract, it is, in a way. There is very little plot in the traditional sense, and the events that do occur are filtered through the mind of Cleave, who, though very self-conscious, is not self-aware.
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Format: Hardcover
While I have yet to read all of his work Mr. Banville's novels seem to fall in to two general areas, those that are complex but understandable, and those that no two people will agree on anything other than the most general of thoughts. His most recent work, "Eclipse", definitely falls into the latter category, and while some criticize the apparent lack of structure, others applaud it.
Many Authors' work is often explained as being like the work of another writer, the, "it tastes like chicken syndrome". I cannot remember a parallel being drawn to this man's work and there is good reason for this, his writing is as original as one can read despite the millions of volumes that have gone before. He does not have a formulaic style that he follows like many contemporary writers, he is not the sort that fills in the blanks or connects the dots until all is finished or clear. Each of his books is written as the story they tell and the characters that inhabit them require. Moving from one novel to the next a reader could be easily convinced they are reading an altogether different writer.
Much like his work, "The Book Of Evidence", the story unfolds from one primary viewpoint. That the view is from a man enduring a breakdown of sorts is apparent, however Mr. Banville gives us an actor in a state of decay so that we read of a breakdown that is assembled from his 30 years of the characters he has played. Add to this the corporeal players in the actor's life, a cast of others, ghosts, demons, real or conjured, a difficult marriage, and finally a daughter who is handicapped, but perhaps a savant. And the result is a very dense work that gives meaning to the word eclipse whether as one passing another, or the infinite degrees from an eclipse so partial, to darkness absolute and final.
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Format: Paperback
This is the first novel by John Banville I read and after finishing it I immediately ordered "The book of Evidence" and "Ghost", so you can safely bet that this is going to be glowing review.
The story is moving but unspectacular: Alexander Cleave is an aging actor who has suddenly lost it. For no reason that he can think of he unexpectedly finds himself in cinemas crying his heart out during the afternoon showings and he forgets his lines when he is on stage. He retreats to his late mother's house, hoping to get some peace of mind there and somehow find himself again. But instead of peace and quiet he finds that ghosts and living people have taken up residence with him. He is also beset by memories of his troubled daughter. Hoever, it is not so much the outcome of all this that matters as the processes in Cleave's mind, his dreams, his perplexities, his realizations, his fears.
Banville writes beautifully, exquisitely. His prose is a blend of evocativeness and precision, his metaphors are just right. An example: "Memory is peculiar in the fierce hold with which it will fix the most insignificant-seeming scenes. Whole tracts of my life have fallen away like a cliff in the sea, yet I cling to seeming trivia with pop-eyed tenacity (p. 74)." And another one: "It has always seemed to me a disgrace that the embarrasments of early life should continue to smart throughout adulthood with undiminshed intensity. Is it not enough that our youthful blunders made us cringe at the time, when we were at our tenderest, but must stay with us beyond cure, burn marks ready to flare up painfully at the merest touch (p. 83)?"
This is not a novel of plot and action, but a gently moving, meditative, introspective story, where a lot is left unsaid and merely hinted at and for the reader to find out. Only very good writers can pull that off succesfully. John Banville is such a very good writer.
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