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Alex Vander is a fraud, big-time. An elderly professor of literature and a scholarly writer with an international reputation, he has neither the education nor the petit bourgeois family in Antwerp that he has claimed. As the splenetic narrator of this searching novel by Banville (Eclipse), he admits early on that he has lied about everything in his life, including his identity, which he stole from a friend of his youth whose mysterious death will resonate as the narrator reflects on his past. Having fled Belgium during WWII, he established himself in Arcady, Calif., with his long-suffering wife, whose recent death has unleashed new waves of guilt in the curmudgeonly old man. Guilt and fear have long since turned Vander into a monster of rudeness, violent temper, ugly excess, alcoholism and self-destructiveness. His web of falsehoods has become an anguishing burden, and his sense of displacement ("I am myself and also someone else") threatens to unhinge him altogether. Then comes a letter from a young woman, Cass Cleave, who claims to know all the secrets of his past. Determined to destroy her, an infuriated Vander meets Cass in Turin and discovers she is slightly mad. Even so, he begins to hope that Cass, his nemesis, could be the instrument of his redemption. Banville's lyrical prose, taut with intelligence, explores the issues of identity and morality with which the novel reverberates. At the end, Vander understands that some people in his life had noble motives for keeping secrets, and their sacrifices make the enormity of his deception even more shameful. This bravura performance will stand as one of Banville's best works.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A scholar and born liar, the elderly but still contentious Axel Vander is about to have his cover blown when an equally contentious young woman enters his life. Banville's lucky 13th novel.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Shroud" is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read and, unlike some authors, Banville doesn't sacrifice plot or character for the sake of style. Read morePublished on Dec 26 2003 by Patrick O'Brien
Axel Vander admits in the opening pages of SHROUD that he is a liar, that he has lied his entire life. Read morePublished on Dec 24 2003 by S. Calhoun
Imagine my overwhelming surprise when I dug deep into John Banville's "Shroud" and discovered a book oozing with sumptuous prose stylings, beautifully shaped characters, sumptuous... Read morePublished on June 15 2003 by Jeffrey Leach
Axel Vander, the narrator of John Banville's "Shroud," is the latest and, according to Banville, will be the last of his "self-hating, murderous" central characters, the kind that... Read morePublished on June 3 2003 by Robert E. Olsen
Axel Vander tells us from the opening of this sensitive and tension-filled study of identity that he is not who he says he is. Read morePublished on March 17 2003 by Mary Whipple
Banville is just the latest in a long line observers on a righteous crusade to discredit a writer that they clearly have never read. Read morePublished on March 16 2003 by B. Artese
In Eclipse, Banville's previous novel, we met the actor Alex Cleave, coming to terms with might conventionally be termed a mid-life crisis. Read morePublished on March 7 2003 by Mark Sarvas