Eclipse Hardcover – Sep 29 2000
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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. Read morePublished on Dec 20 2007 by ginger snaps
After his nearly perfect previous novel, (The Untouchable) Banville continues to write magnificent prose, but the plotline in Eclipse is nonexistent. Read morePublished on April 9 2001 by Alan M