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Athena (Frames)


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John Banville is a winner of the "Guardian" Fiction Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the GPA Book Award, and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

About the Author

John Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland, in 1945. He is the author of many highly acclaimed and prize-winning novels including The Sea, which won the 2005 Booker Prize. He has been awarded the Franz Kafka Prize and a literary award from the Lannan Foundation. He lives in Dublin.


Art historian Morrow is hired by small-time crook Morden to authenticate and catalog a cache of eight paintings stored in a decrepit house. As Morden and his seedy assistant, Francie, lead Morrow through the house, a delicious sense of impending menace is evoked by simple things: the rising staircase; a door standing ajar; an intense, bright light; and a watching dog. Morrow's brief glimpse through a crumbling wall of a woman's leg in stockings and black high heels is the beginning of his increasingly destructive sexual obsession with the woman, identified only as A. Irish writer Banville has created such a fantastic feeling of suspense and foreboding in his slightly surreal world‘with hints that Morrow may be the same ex-convict narrator of his earlier novels, The Book of Evidence (LJ 3/1/90) and Ghosts (LJ 9/15/93)‘that the somewhat anticlimactic ending is a letdown. But Banville's sure way with language, style, and character development make this essential for literary collections. Highly recommended.‘Patricia Ross, Westerville P.L., Ohio

While beautifully written and filled with intriguing questions about the nature of truth and the reliability of memory, Banville's new novel is neither as emotionally compelling as The Book of Evidence nor as stylistically challenging as Ghosts, with which it forms a loose trilogy. Although his name is now Morrow, the narrator of this shadowy tale involving stolen paintings and a doomed love affair is probably‘but only probably‘Frederick Montgomery, the tortured protagonist of Evidence and the unnamed narrator of Ghosts. There are several references to the murder for which Montgomery was imprisoned, and if the narrator is not the same man, then why does Inspector Hackett recognize him and assume his knowledge of the artwork purloined from Whitewater House, scene of Montgomery's crime? In fact, the narrator, who apparently has some fine-art expertise, has been asked by the menacing underworld figure Morden to authenticate these paintings, eight 17th-century works whose subject matter‘various stages in the ever-shifting balance of power between men and women‘mirrors the progress of Morrow's affair with a mysterious woman he calls ``A.'' The couple's sexual games grow increasingly dangerous as the police close in on the stolen paintings, but nothing is what it seems: the artworks are forgeries‘or are they? Morrow's lover is Morden's wife‘or is she? Banville creates a dreamlike world of pervasive unease and a sense of loss fueled by the narrator's unspecified guilt (he may also be responsible for a series of gruesome murders), but the point of all this angst is never quite clear. Nonetheless, the novel's evocative physical detail and provocative metaphysical musings make an impact. (May)

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