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Ancient Light by John Banville
‘Billy Gray was my best friend and I fell in love with his mother.’
Alexander Cleave, a 60-something year-old retired actor, 10 years after the death of his daughter Cass, begins to record his memories of a first, unlikely affair he had at age 15 with a married woman 20 years his senior. Moving between his memories of this early obsessive and clandestine love and the life of quiet grieving he now leads with his wife Lydia, his narrative takes up the dynamics of family, love, grief, and the reliability of memory. Cleave's solitude is interrupted by an offer to play the lead in a film entitled The Invention of the Past, based on the life of literary theorist Axel Vander. On the set, Cleave meets and befriends his emotionally fragile young leading lady, Dawn Devonport. Devonport, grieving the recent death of her father, and Cleave, still mourning the death of Cass, form a familial bond. With its uncanny parallels to the events in Eclipse (Axel Vander was the man Cass Cleave was with in Italy when she killed herself), this far from unwitting father-daughter relationship plays out against the backdrop of young love (and loss) as Cleave continues to narrate to its inevitable end, the relationship he had as a boy with Mrs Gray.
‘It's not surprising that with Eclipse and Shroud coming hard on each other's heels, it's taken ten years for him to present us with the circle's closure in Ancient Light. Except this is Banville: don't necessarily bank on closure. He is a true literary anarchist.’ Emer O'Kelly Irish Independent
"Banville's ostensible theme throughout might be the fictions we tell ourselves in the name of memory, the self-protection and the self-harm that the past affords us...Cleverness is on display, and nothing might be quite what it seems, but Banville's duty of care, to the emotional lives of his characters, to the worlds in which they live, is not neglected for a moment." Tim Adams The Observer
‘Many of John Banville's customary concerns are present in this bedazzling new novel: memory and invention, questions of identity and make-believe, names and aliases, transgressions and transformations.’ Patricia Craig The Independent
John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of fourteen previous novels, including The Sea, which won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. Banville also writes crime novels under the pen name Benjamin Black. He was recently awarded the Franz Kafka Prize. He lives in Dublin.
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