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Shroud by John Banville
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Shroud (original 2002; edition 2004)

by John Banville

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5581327,045 (3.46)25
Member:keren7
Title:Shroud
Authors:John Banville
Info:Vintage (2004), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:don't own, read, 1001, 2007, booksfree

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Shroud by John Banville (2002)

  1. 00
    Der gestohlene Abend by Wolfram Fleischhauer (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: In beiden Romanen ist der Literaturwissenschaftler Paul de Man Vorbild.
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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
A good, not great, novel about identity and and self-definition. The characters are slightly out-sized and the plot a bit choppy, but the prose is well turned. Also, I had to look up at least 50 words in the OED and all of them were used with absolute precision. A solid work, but not required. ( )
  Eoin | Jun 3, 2019 |
see my review on our blog: www.thereadersroom.org/2015/06/05/1001-book-review-shroud-john-banville/ ( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
Shroud John Banville
★★★★

Shroud is a story of unreliable narrators and hidden pasts. Axel Vander having survived the Nazis has made a life for himself as a famous author living in American, yet Axel is not who he claims to be and one day the letter he has been half expecting his whole life arrives. The letter is from a young woman Cass Cleave who (in true horror movie style) claims to know what he did...

Cass uses her knowledge of his past to summon Axel to Turin a town where he has several old colleagues who have tried and failed for years to get him to visit.

From the start we know that Axel is a grumpy old man with a history of being violent and aggressive and of course we know he has a secret, a secret someone else now knows. When we meet Cass all we know is that she is young and Irish that her father is a failed actor and that her childhood has not been happy as the narrative progresses we learn that Cass is suffering from a mental disorder that means she confuses reality and fantasy. The narrative switches between the two main characters as a general rule the Vander sections are first person and the Cass sections third person a style I think works as it shows the unreliability of both of them.

I actually found myself quite enjoying the story even though who knows exactly what is never spelled out clearly something I normally find frustrating, as for the ending I found it to be touching in a strange way but entirely inevitable.
( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
Banville does it again. The writing is fantastic. The characters and the mood drawn by Banville are fascinating. I thought the plot line was a bit weak. Why does Cass initiate a meeting with Vander, show up and immediately go to bed with him? Put this aside, well worth a read. ( )
  ghefferon | Nov 11, 2012 |
So...a reread of this, it turns out, second book in a trilogy--now that ANCIENT LIGHT has arrived 10 years after this one's publication. SHROUD--about death, about being shrouded in secrecy, shrouded by false identity (and by identity itself). The fairly detestible, but spectacularly complex, main character, Axel Vander, is a Paul de Man-like Romantics scholar (among his works being a highly influential essay on Shelley...) with a dodgy past as, like de Man, Vander wrote some anti-Semitic articles during the rise of Hitler. And it's true that Axel Vander wrote them. What is not true is that the main character is in fact Axel Vander. Vander was a casual friend that the main character (never actually named) envied deeply. When the real Vander dies under mysterious circumstances and the main character must flee the forces that destroy his family, he adopts the name. (Later, the realization that the Vanders themselves were in danger and may, too, have been Jewish, and that the real Vander may have died as a Resistance fighter adds yet another layer to the already dizzyingly complex issue of identity in this novel.) When Cass Cleave contacts him with imprecisely revealed knowledge of his past, the question for him is what does she know? Is she threatening to reveal the anti-Jewish tracts and ruin his illustrious career as Axel Vander, or to unmask his identity? (Which is what, exactly--he didn't write the tracts, did write the essays that have made him famous, didn't really need to keep the name after he'd escaped to London....) The degraded facts of his existence--as whomever--also include murder (of his lost-to-dementia wife Magda), his supposed war wounds actually got in a beating arranged by his London girlfriend after he stole money from her, his petty thievery (an accompaniment to his much larger identity theft and constant dissembling), and his taking the mentally deranged, excruciatingly vulnerable, and very young Cass Cleave to bed. That she adopts him as her cause and care and, he believes, kills herself when he drops her, and that he claims to love her (an old friend calls him on this one) add this novel's plot elements to the mayhem he has wrought in his one lifetime. He "gets away" with it all in the end, along with a cache of stolen pills in a stolen case with which he plans to end his life. He sees himself as Harlequin, the dubious figure with whom Banville has been engaged for years.

(On the plot point side in light of Alex Cleave's return in ANCIENT LIGHT, he had let down his desperate daughter in many ways, one of which was telling her not to try to figure out how to live--just act, the old thespian advised. Cass also claims to have been "in love" with her father, and her disjointed discourse--and involvement with Vander--is addressed to him. And it is Vander who drunk-dials Cleave in ECLIPSE. These two books, written within a year of each other, bookend neatly.) ( )
  beaujoe | Oct 28, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 037572530X, Paperback)

One part Nietzsche, one part Humbert Humbert, and a soupcon of Milton’s Lucifer, Axel Vander, the dizzyingly unreliable narrator of John Banville’s masterful new novel, is very old, recently widowed, and the bearer of a fearsome reputation as a literary dandy and bully. A product of the Old World, he is also an escapee from its conflagrations, with the wounds to prove it. And everything about him is a lie.

Now those lies have been unraveled by a mysterious young woman whom Vander calls “Miss Nemesis.” They are to meet in Turin, a city best known for its enigmatic shroud. Is her purpose to destroy Vander or to save him—or simply to show him what lies beneath the shroud in which he has wrapped his life? A splendidly moving exploration of identity, duplicity, and desire, Shroud is Banville’s most rapturous performance to date.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:59 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Axel Vander is an elderly scholar renowned for both his unquestionable authority and the ferocity and violence that often mark his conduct. He is known to be Belgian by birth, and to have made a perilous escape from World War Europe. But Axel Vander is a fraud, and now a young woman is threatening to expose his secret.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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