Mrs. Osmond: Book summary and reviews of Mrs. Osmond by John Banville

Mrs. Osmond

by John Banville

Mrs. Osmond by John Banville X
Mrs. Osmond by John Banville
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2017
    384 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea, a dazzling and audacious new novel that extends the story of Isabel Archer, the heroine of Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady, into unexpected territory.

Isabel Archer is a young American woman, swept off to Europe in the late nineteenth century by an aunt who hopes to round out the impetuous but naïve girl's experience of the world. When Isabel comes into a large, unexpected inheritance, she is finagled into a marriage with the charming, penniless, and - as Isabel finds out too late - cruel and deceitful Gilbert Osmond, whose connection to a certain Madame Merle is suspiciously intimate. On a trip to England to visit her cousin Ralph Touchett on his deathbed, Isabel is offered a chance to free herself from the marriage, but nonetheless chooses to return to Italy.

Banville follows James's story line to this point, but Mrs. Osmond is thoroughly Banville's own: the narrative inventiveness; the lyrical precision and surprise of his language; the layers of emotional and psychological intensity; the subtle, dark humor. And when Isabel arrives in Italy - along with someone else! - the novel takes off in directions that James himself would be thrilled to follow.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. As in James's novel, Banville incorporates a wonderful sense of irony; the result is a novel that succeeds both as an unofficial sequel and as a bold, thoroughly satisfying standalone." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. A sequel that honors James and his singular heroine while showing Banville to be both an uncanny mimic and, as always, a captivating writer." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. With viciously mannered dialogue and breathtaking psychological metaphors (Isabel feels like a hearse carrying "the warm little corpse of her own heart"), he dramatizes Isabel's quest for higher moral ground only to slyly leave his novel's ending as enigmatic as its inspiration. Banville's gamble, daring us to compare his sequel to James' classic, pays off deliciously." - Booklist

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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 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. The Sea (2005) won the Man Booker Prize.

Between 1988 and 1999 Banville was the literary editor of the Irish Times. He has also written a number of crime novels under the pseudonym Benjamin Black. He lives in Dublin.

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