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Eclipse

Banville, John

Published by Alfred A. Knopf Incorporated, New York, NY, U.S.A., 2001
ISBN 10: 0375411291 / ISBN 13: 9780375411298
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Bibliographic Details


Title: Eclipse

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Incorporated, New York, NY, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition: Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: First Edition.

Description:

B& N postcard laid in. FINE/FINE unread copy. Great book. Protected by Brodart Archival Cover. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 000028

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Synopsis: In his first novel since The Untouchable, John Banville gives us the intensely emotional story of a man discovering for the first time who he has been and what he is becoming.

Alexander Cleave?a famous actor who ?took to the stage to give myself a cast of characters to inhabit who would be . . . of more weight and moment than I could ever hope to be??faces the almost certain collapse of his thirty-year career. In physical and psychological retreat, he returns to his abandoned childhood home, believing that, away from his wife and daughter, away from the world at large, alone, without an audience of any kind, he might finally stop performing, catch himself in the act of living, and simply be.

But the house is unexpectedly populated. There are Cleave?s memories, which seem to rise up out of the house itself: of the years during his childhood when his mother took in boarders; of the beginnings, and the beginnings-of-the-end, of his career and his marriage; of the course of his relationship with his now estranged daughter; and of his father, who committed suicide when Cleave was still a boy. There are the corporeal, but illicit, inhabitants of the house: the caretaker, an unsettling presence ?with the ageless aspect of a wastrel son,? and the fifteen-year-old housekeeper, a ?voluptuary of indolence.? And there are the apparitions (ghosts? premonitions? visitations?)?a woman, a child, and a third, ill-defined figure?who Cleave feels are ?intricately involved in the problem of whatever it is that has gone wrong with me.?

Struggling to determine what exactly has gone wrong, and to understand what part the apparitions play in his life and he in theirs, Cleave slowly comes to see the ways in which things and people?himself included?are not what they seem, and the ways in which, inevitably, they reveal what they are.

Brilliantly conjured and realized, Eclipse is John Banville at his unique best.

Review: John Banville's novels have a reputation for their linguistic flair and carefully observed description. His latest novel, Eclipse, is no exception in this regard. It tells the story of Alexander Cleave, a dramatic actor with "the famous eyes whose flash of fire could penetrate to the very back row of the stalls". Cleave has however recently experienced an actor's ultimate fear--"he died, corpsed in the middle of the last act and staggered off the stage in sweaty ignominy just when the action was coming to its climax".

The impact upon Cleave of the collapse of his acting career is devastating and leads him to reassess his entire life. Looking back on his childhood, he realises that "acting was inevitable. From earliest days life for me was a perpetual state of being watched". Cleave flees to the house in the country where he grew up and, as he sinks into a depressed torpor, he realises that the house is inhabited by both ghosts from the past, as well as more furtive and tangible presences from the moment. Visited by his anguished wife Lydia, and obsessing on his fractured relationship with his academically gifted but disturbed daughter Cass, Cleave reflects with great emotional intensity on "the terror of the self, of letting the self go so far free that one night it might break away".

Eclipse is a beautifully written but dark and introspective novel. It often almost completely dispenses with plot, as Banville (author of Booker short-listed The Book of Evidence to The Untouchable) probes deeper into Cleave's disturbed reflection on his life, his family, his past and his present, all of which culminates in a desolate and unexpected ending. Eclipse is an elegiac, mournful novel, linguistically brilliant but somewhat unrelenting. --Jerry Brotton

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