The Infinities: Book summary and reviews of The Infinities by John Banville

The Infinities

By John Banville

The Infinities
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2010,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

On a languid midsummer's day in the countryside, old Adam Godley, a renowned theoretical mathematician, is dying. His family gathers at his bedside: his son, young Adam, struggling to maintain his marriage to a radiantly beautiful actress; his nineteen-year-old daughter, Petra, filled with voices and visions as she waits for the inevitable; their stepmother, Ursula, whose relations with the Godley children are strained at best; and Petra's "young man"—very likely more interested in the father than the daughter—who has arrived for a superbly ill-timed visit.

But the Godley family is not alone in their vigil. Around them hovers a family of mischievous immortals—among them, Zeus, who has his eye on young Adam's wife; Pan, who has taken the doughy, perspiring form of an old unwelcome acquaintance; and Hermes, who is the genial and omniscient narrator: "We too are petty and vindictive," he tells us, "just like you, when we are put to it." As old Adam's days on earth run down, these unearthly beings start to stir up trouble, to sometimes wildly unintended effect. ....

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The narrative is rife with asides, but it is to the common trajectory of a life that—despite the noise crowding ailing Adam's repose—it lends its most consoling notes, elevating the temporal and profane to the holy eternal." - Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week

"Starred Review. Choosing introspective character description over rich plotlines, Banville here puts his writing prowess on full display. This work will appeal to readers who enjoy the work of John Updike or Vladimir Nabokov." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. With odd details (cars powered by seawater) and intricate musings over the complexities of consciousness and the cosmos, Banville creates a bewitching world in which to ponder what it is to be human." - Booklist

"There is, nevertheless, some superb writing scattered throughout the book. ... But these poignant moments ...don’t, for all the ­perfection of their rhythm, add up to a fully ­successful novel." - The London Times

"This elaborate intellectual structure rests on skimpy dramatic foundations, however, and the book only really sparks into life when old Adam is recounting his memories." - The Guardian (UK)

"The interwoven texture of the novel, and its unimpeachable poise, are what gives point to its randomness of incident. 'How all things hang together,' thinks Banville's narrator at one point, 'when one has the perspective from which to view them.' Yes." - The Independent (UK)

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Author Information

John Banville Author Biography

Photo © Jerry Bauer

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He was educated at a Christian Brother's school and St Peter's College in Wexford.  After leaving college he worked for Aer Lingus (Irish airline) in Dublin, Ireland - which gave him the opportunity to travel widely.  His first book - Long Lankin, a collection of short stories, was published in 1970.  It was followed by two novels, Nightspawn (1971) and Birchwood (1973).  Dr Copernicus (historical fiction) won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction, and was followed by a series of novels exploring the lives of eminent scientists.  For a full bibliography see below.  The Sea (2005) won the Man Booker Prize. Between 1988 and 1999 Banville was the literary editor of the Irish...

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