I liked this book, but I didn't love it. I wonder if I'd have appreciated it more if I had realized that there were two other books dealing with the characters already out there -- I didn't know until I started skimming other reviews just today. Shame, as I wish I could have had the opportunity to fully appreciate this one. Ancient Light
is about Alexander Cleave, an aging actor who is offered a role in a film about a mysterious writer, Axel Vander, at the same time he is reminiscing about the scandalous affair he engaged in with his best friend's mother when he was 15. John Banville writes very elegant, almost languorous prose. There is very little plot movement, and what does happen moves very slowly. Instead, there is a lot of reminiscing and connecting ideas. As I was reading, all I could think was that Michael Chabon needs to take a lesson from John Banville on how to write long, meandering sentences that don't lost their coherence. I'm not a huge, huge fan of stream-of-consciousness narration but it's obvious to me that Banville took a lot of time with his word choices and sentence structure.
However, I started to get bored. I wanted Banville to do a little more to connect the fifty-years-ago affair with the present day moving making, and it just wasn't coming together for me. In many ways, this one reminded me of The Sense of An Ending
, my final book of 2011. Both feature older men looking back on significant events of their youth and trying to unravel the contradictions between memory and history, personal experience and the truth. While both novels were very introspective, I think Barnes's brevity worked better for me. Even though Ancient Light
is a relatively brief 300 pages, it often felt like it was considerably more.
Maybe I'll give the older books a try and then revisit this one, if I'm ever at a loss for fresh material. As it stands, though, this one nestles right into the middle of my ratings, well-written and thoughtful but just too slow to completely engage me.