Ancient Light: Book summary and reviews of Ancient Light by John Banville

Ancient Light

By John Banville

Ancient Light
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2012,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

Is there any difference between memory and invention? That is the question that fuels this stunning novel, written with the depth of character, the clarifying lyricism and the sly humor that have marked all of John Banville's extraordinary works. And it is the question that haunts Alexander Cleave, an actor in the twilight of his career and of his life, as he plumbs the memories of his first - and perhaps only - love (he, fifteen years old, the woman more than twice his age, the mother of his best friend; the situation impossible, thrilling, devouring and finally devastating) ... and of his daughter, lost to a kind of madness of mind and heart that Cleave can only fail to understand. When his dormant acting career is suddenly, inexplicably revived with a movie role portraying a man who may not be who he says he is, his young leading lady - famous and fragile - unwittingly gives him the opportunity to see with aching clarity the "chasm that yawns between the doing of a thing and the recollection of what was done."

Ancient Light is a profoundly moving meditation on love and loss, on the inscrutable immediacy of the past in our present lives, on how invention shapes memory and memory shapes the man. It is a book of spellbinding power and pathos from one of the greatest masters of prose at work today.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The problem with this book is that the past is beautifully--perfectly--imagined; it's Alex's over-determined present that's unbelievable." - Publishers Weekly

"Banville writes beautiful sentences, while recognizing the limits and deceptions of language, in a meditation on themes that he has better explored elsewhere." - Kirkus

"Glittering visual evocation, expressed in a tone at once fresh and wistfully ironic ... a world at once random, dreamlike and deeply experienced." - The Sunday Times (UK)

"Banville proves here over and over that one can write with the true texture of erotic memory without resorting to titillation. He deserves to outsell Fifty Shades of Grey tenfold. Sunday Express (UK)

"Prose that lingers on every last physical and psychological detail. Metro Banville does regretful roues better than almost anyone ... His use of language can also be startlingly brilliant ... Terrific ... full of sadness and yearning." - Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"This dazzling novel captures a long-lost adolescent world of passion and desire." - Independent (UK)

"The Booker prize winning author - widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in English today - has produced what many already consider a literary masterpiece." - Sunday Independent (UK)

"We now want them [novels] to provoke, cajole, edify, entertain, puzzle, divert, clarify and console. Banville's new novel does all these things and much more besides." - Irish The Independent (UK)

"Banville, with his forensic sensory memory, his great gift for textural (and textual) precision, his ability to inhabit not just a room, as a writer, but also the full weight of a breathing body, is exactly in his element here." - The Observer (UK)

"A novel criss-crossed with ghost roads and dead-ends and peopled by shifty characters who seem provisional even to themselves. It is written in Baville's customary prose, rhythmic and allusive and dense with suggestive imagery, prose and deliberately slows you down and frequently wrongfoots you." - The Guardian (UK)

"A bittersweet rumination on first love ... The language soars, full of the beauty of nature and the sadness of loss." - Marie Claire (UK)

"Banville perfectly captures the spirit of adolescence, the body yearning for sexual experience, the mind blurring eroticism and emotion ... Banville is a Nabokovian artist, his prose so rich, poetic and packed with startling imagery that reading it is akin to gliding regally through a lake of praline: it's a slow, stately process, delicious and to be savoured ... This is a luminous breathtaking work." - Independent on Sunday (UK)

"Ancient Light also bears resemblance to Lolita that extends beyond the obvious hallmark ecstatic prose..different periods of his life blending into a single meditation of breathtaking beauty and profundity on love and loss and death, the final page of which brought tears." - The Financial Times (UK)

"A beautifully written tale of youthful passion." - Good Housekeeping

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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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