Having now read a number of John Banville's works, I see him as a writer who challenges his readers to think through a complicated process in order to understand the larger meaning of life. Exploring a typical Banville novel is never easy, especially when it involves unlocking the inherent value and purpose of its main ideas. His earlier work, titled "Ghosts", is a good example of how initially challenging his writings can be. Here there is no recognizable story that follows a neatly defined pattern with a start and endpoint. All the cast of characters have their own unique experiences that evolve in a stream-of-consciousness that often runs at cross-purposes with each other. As shipwrecks, they have all arrived together at the same place in time haunted by the memories or ghosts of unfulfilled and unhappy pasts to contend with as they sort out their various reason for being there. Their coming together on a desert island has as much to say about the accidental mysteries of life as it does about the place itself: devoid of purpose and sense of security. Complicating matters is the troubled presence of an disembodied narrator's voice that attempts to override the other assorted tales of discontent with its own abject view of life. This motley crew of unhappy visitors is met by a seemingly redoutable professor of art and his disaffected assistant, the two main occupants of the island, who regard it as a refuge against the threats of romantic and modern interpretation. Meaning for them is simply cleaving to what they believe is the artist's intended purpose at the moment of creation. In the course of the story, their confidence and self-assurance will gradually erode as this unwelcomed group of outsiders intrude on their privacy. Once again, the depth, size and power of the sea play a major role in defining the space in which Banville's characters operate. They are truly prisoners not only of their incomplete pasts but of their uncertain futures as they contend with a strange and unfamiliar present. Banville brings to his writing a tremendous sense of time and space as connected through poetic prose: language that captures the feelings in motion. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to appreciate how we may be affected by the forces of our past as we long to validate our future.