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Eclipse by John Banville

Eclipse (original 2000; edition 2001)

by John Banville

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4771021,645 (3.43)7
Authors:John Banville
Info:Picador (2001), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, english, contemporary, old men, series

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Eclipse by John Banville (2000)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This John Banville novel shares a time-frame and characters with his book Shroud. I read Shroud first (about ten years ago), although Eclipse was the first of the two to be published. They have a single development in common for their respective endings, so that no matter in which sequence one might read them, the first will "spoil" the second in some measure. In neither case should that be a problem, though. The value of both books is in their language, the interior dramas of their first-person central characters (I hesitate to use the word "protagonist," particularly for Shroud), and the ways in which understandings dawn on them.

Eclipse is gentler by far than its sequel. Alex Cleave is a stage actor in the twilight of his career. His marriage is failing, and he returns to stay in the empty boarding house that he had inherited from his mother. In this place, he is subjected to a variety of hauntings. He has profound feelings of loss, but he is seeking solitude to identify their object, which remains obscure to him. As in Shroud (and even more so the novel which Banville wrote after that, the award-winning The Sea) much of the text consists of the reminiscences of an older man immersing himself in a nostalgic solitude.

This might be my least favorite of the Banville novels I've read to date, but it's still impressive and engaging.
4 vote paradoxosalpha | Jul 7, 2015 |
Procrastination of scholarly work made sure I had to read this book in a very short amount of time. Some nuances will probably be lost on me, but I think I got the gist of it. 'Eclipse' is written in a very lyrical style, resulting in some absolutely ridiculous sentences, but at the same time creating a rather speficic rhythm that serves the story quite nicely.

The story itself is about an actor called Alexander, a rather disjointed figure who has never actually managed to live in the real present day world. Symbolically, he abandons everything to live in the house where he was raised, a house that is somewhat haunted. One could argue the real ghosts are the living - they are the people who seem out of place in the novel. Identity is very problematic in this book. Every character is marked by a big empty void, a lack of motivation/inspiration/etc. Fascinating, but not really a book that will leave you smiling.

Which, of course, doesn't mean you should avoid this novel. It's quite well written and has some interesting ideas. Probably won't leave a lasting impression though. ( )
  WorldInColour | Oct 12, 2013 |
As always, the prose is utterly amazing. A man examining his life in his childhood home, visited by ghosts. No plot, no resolution; perhaps that's life but it makes for a slow read. I thought Shroud, the second in this trilogy, is much stronger. ( )
  ghefferon | Nov 28, 2012 |
Maybe I should've realized when first reading ECLIPSE 12 years ago (or at least after reading SHROUD in 2002) that Alex Cleave would become Banville's next Freddy Montgomery, but it took the publication of ANCIENT LIGHT for that realization to dawn. (Not to mention that I'd forgotten altogether that the name Quirke had occurred prior to Banville's Benjamin Black incarnation. Some Banville student I've turned out to be.) But to belatedly attempt to get straight on things as I'm rereading...

ECLIPSE features vain but broken actor Cleave in the immediate aftermath of his disgrace--forgetting his lines and leaving the stage--a disgrace that seems very far away in ANCIENT LIGHT. It will seem very far away at the end of this novel, too, because this plot illuminates (from Cleave's point of view) the moment of his daughter Cass's suicide (10 years' past at the time of ANCIENT LIGHT). There are events in life that eclipse everything; Cass's death is one of those.

The entire novel functions as a kind of premonition. A shamed exile from his own life, Cleave has returned to his childhood home to, in Banville's complex figuration, both escape and find himself. What he finds is a weirdly un-empty house. His caretaker Quirke and Quirke's slovenly 15-year-old daughter Lily have taken up stealthy residence. Also lurking on the property are the ghosts of a young woman and her child. An awkward father-daughter-ish relationship develops between Cleave and Lily--a sorry shadow of the desperate relationship with Cass that he's struggling to comprehend (and forgive himself for). He even spies on Quirke--the comic parent to his thespian tragedian.

His relentlessly mixed feelings for his mentally distressed, impossibly difficult daughter are a constant torment to him. But his preoccupation with nursing his own fragile but monumental ego keeps his connections to others tenuous at best. A perfect symbol of this is the telephone he has ripped from the wall, the better to contemplate his identity crisis and obsessions--including his daughter. Meanwhile, the only traditional "plot" element (late in the novel) is Cass's last, broken and desolate attempt to phone.

Phone calls play an intriguing role throughout--especially a mysterious call from someone in Cass's mysterious life. Is this Axel Vander, narrator of the novel-to-come, SHROUD? We can't know at the time ECLIPSE was published and first read. The premonitory ghosts, of course, are those of Cass and her unborn child.

Why do we always end up feeling as though Banville, the master holding all the cards, planned his body of work a long, long time ago? (There's even a reference to the artist Vaublin's pierrot from GHOSTS--speaking of Freddy Montgomery....) ( )
1 vote beaujoe | Oct 15, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Banvilleprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sterre, Jan Pieter van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375725296, Paperback)

In this deeply moving and original book, John Banville alloys mystery, fable, and ghost story with poignant psychological acuity to forge the riveting story of a man wary of the future, plagued by the past, and so uncertain in the present that he cannot discern the spectral from the real.

When renowned actor Alexander Cleave was a boy living in a large house with his widowed mother and various itinerant lodgers, he encountered a strikingly vivid ghost of his father. Now that he’s fifty and has returned to his boyhood home to recover from a nervous breakdown on stage, he is not surprised to find the place still haunted. He is surprised, however, at the presence of two new lodgers who have covertly settled into his old roost. And he is soon overwhelmed by how they, coupled with an onslaught of disturbing memories, compel him to confront the clutter that has become his life: ruined career, tenuous marriage, and troubled relationship with an estranged daughter destined for doom.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:46 -0400)

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A retired actor examines his life and career in the hope of discovering his true self.

(summary from another edition)

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