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Eclipse [Hardcover]

John Banville
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 29 2000
Alexander Cleave has always felt "watched", even when he is alone. Becoming an actor, he performs his way through life until at he peak of his career he suddenly leaves. He begins to unravel his own past in his childhood home, where memory of the past fuses with details of his present.

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Product Description

From Amazon

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

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 alternate Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Quiet acceptance of human imperfections Dec 20 2007
Format:Paperback
Written with subtlety and simplicity, "Eclipse" is a wistful and introspective story about Alex, a man who leaves his wife and successful career for solitude.

Despite good reviews Banville received elsewhere, I always felt uncomfortable with his work because of its pronounced aloofness and cynicism, along with a collection of deliberately charmless characters. In "Eclipse", Banville appears to have relented somewhat and softened his scrutiny on human nature and its limitation. Alex, who is excessively self-conscious, conceited, bored, and detached, is nonetheless portrayed as a vulnerable person with an inner wish to love and be loved. I felt relief as, while remaining austere and skeptical about emotional bonds, Banville tempers them with quiet acceptance of human imperfections and gives a sense of transcendence with his masterly lyricism.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Might Give It Another Try Some Day March 21 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I endured about 75 pages of navel-gazing and finally put the book down. Generally, I like 'heavy' introspective books, but this wasn't going anywhere and the main character wasn't interesting enough to carry it along. I think it was around the part where he found himself oddly fascinated with the various matters his body produced, such as 'stools and snot' that I literally tossed the book aside and picked up something else. I might give it another try, eventually but, then again, maybe not.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Twist in the Tale. March 8 2002
Format:Hardcover
John Banville's Eclipse is, I think, his best novel yet. There is a qualification to this claim. Banville is a quiet, introspective and eloquently descriptive writer. Most of his novels largely avoid plot and instead pay attention not so much to the characters but to the world around them. As such the more you read this author the more you understand and appreciate him.
Eclipse itself is simple. A middle age actor has had enough of life and the stage and retreats to his old family home. However things are not what he expects. Instead of longed for tranquility old problems with life and family persist. And new problems emerge. The actor does not seem able to discern between what is and what is not real.
Are the ghosts and images real or just troubled imaginations? At the end the unreal is something different again. It's a great twist to a ghost story.
Once again Banville's powers of description impress. Few writers, through their prose, can paint the world so well. Eclipse succeeds on many levels.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another Enigma April 23 2001
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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