17 June, 2013
Ancient Light by John Banville [Rhiannon, Waiheke Library]
I really enjoyed this book, though at times I did feel like I was over the characters – particularly the main character, who was so terribly self-absorbed! But I felt this was deliberate, and I’m not sure that the author wanted us to be entirely sympathetic towards his character.
Two key themes of the book are memory and grief, and I felt both were both handled with amazing skill. Banville considers questions like: How much does the past haunt us? How much does it colour our daily lives? How much is it a thing we create ourselves? And while his character indulges in constant forays into memories of a long past affair, it gradually dawns on you how much he is doing it to avoid other memories. Memories of his dead daughter, which he skirts around for fear of being sucked in to a grief that lurks like a dark mass within his mind.
Throughout the novel Banville delights in sending his readers to the dictionary. There were many words I didn’t know, e.g. p.104 “Leporine uncertainty” – ‘Of or resembling a hare’ – and I really enjoyed this playfulness with language. If you manage to read it without going to the dictionary once, I take my hat off to you!
Title: Ancient Light
Author: John Banville
- Rhiannon, Waiheke Library