February 06, 2010

The Infinities - John Banville


The Infinities is my first John Banville read and I have to say that I am intrigued.

The book takes place over the course of one day. The Godley family have come together after the father, husband and patriarch of the family, Adam Senior, has suffered a massive stroke and has been brought home to die amongst his loved ones, his second wife Ursula and their two children, Petra and Adam Jnr and Adam's wife, Helen. The twist to the novel is that is narrated by the mythical Greek god, Hermes - clearly the funniest character in the book for me. Hermes introduces the reader to each of the human, mortal characters and in doing so also shows us how the gods intervene in the family life and the course of events of that single day.

I would normally struggle with a book set up with this premise but I jumped right into this novel with no problems at all - the way Banville constructed the world of the gods and the world of the humans and the way the two intersected so seamlessly made the reading, in that regard at least, easy for me. I did find Banville's writing extremely 'literary' in places and many times a word had me reaching for the dictionary (I admit I got a bit lazy in the end and just kept reading on when a word had me stumped) but this didn't detract from the story or the characters for me. As I mentioned earlier this book contained a lot of humour, particularly in the scenes where the gods were involved, and there were also some beautiful phrases and snippets - my favourite would have to be this description; 'the lemony sunlight of the Italian noon'.

Overall an enjoyable and reflective read for me. Do you think I would enjoy any of Banville's other novels?

10 comments:

Merenia said...

I've read the Booker winner, The Sea. It was very melancholic and bleak and hopeless meditation on grief and death with a dark childhood experience at the root of the story. I found it pretentious with lots of unncessarily obscure words. Also the main character was so haughty it was hard to warm to the story.
Much better was his non-fiction book on Prague, called Prague Pictures, a homage to the city, written with beautiful wistful prose - it was this book which made me pursue his fiction. The Sea was so hard going I havn't had another go at his fiction since.

farmlanebooks said...

I enjoyed this book too. The only other Banville book I've read is The Sea, which as Merenia says is a lot darker. I thought The Sea was OK, but nowhere near as enjoyable as The Infinities. Let me know if you enjoy any of his other books.

savidgereads said...

My Gran really, really likes Banville she would recommend The Untouchable and The Book of Evidence!!! Both are on my TBR but I have yet to get around top any Banville and I must!

JoAnn said...

I really liked The Sea. Had an interesting experience with it as I started out with an audio, then picked up the book so I could reread passages. Ended up listening in the car, then reading ahead at home in the evenings.

BTW, I like your new header photo!

Mille Feuille said...

Thank you for drawing this book to my attention; it sounds like a pleasurable and interesting read. My only other experience with Banville was with _Shroud_ (you can see my thoughts on it here: http://myshelfrunnethover.blogspot.com/2010/01/reflections-shroud.html ). It, like the Sea, is much darker than what you describe, and is also peopled with characters who are unpleasant. I note that dark or humorous, Banville's prose seems to be of a literary cast.

Samantha said...

You and Jackie gave made me reconsider Banville! I had completely given up on him as I thought The Sea so slow and depressing and I tried and then gave up on The Shroud. (Though I have to say I enjoyed his detective book written under the name Benjamin Black - Christine Falls).

Karen said...

Hi Merenia - I don't think bleak and hopeless is the type of book I am looking for at the moment so I might stay away from The Sea! I can see what you mean about Banville's writing style coming across as pretentious - I think if I hadn't enjoyed this book overall so much I would have found this one that way too. The Prague book sounds beautiful though.

Hi Jackie - I think I will stick with The Infinities for now! It sounds like The Sea might drag me down a little!

Hi Simon - I haven't heard of either of the books that your Gran would recommend so I will have to see if I can find them. Are they not as dark and gloomy as The Sea?

Hi JoAnn - glad you like the photo, I thought it was time for a change. Did you find The Sea dark and depressing?

Hi Mille Feuille - thanks for the recommendation! I think I'm going to enjoy Banville's more humourous books most.

Hi Samantha - It sounds like he has written quite a bit crossing over different genres. I'm not feeling keen to go near The Sea based on what people are saying.

Nadia said...

This sounds like a really interesting books. I have The Sea on my bookshelf, but have yet to read it. So, truthfully, I wouldn't be sure what to expect from Banville. However, after reading your great post about his book, The Infinities, I am quite excited about reading some of his work. Cheers!

julie said...

I really like how you describe those books... and Banville has been on my list for years. I was thinking of starting with The Sea, but I might follow your advice instead! Thanks...

Karen said...

Hi Nadia - I hope you enjoy his books when you get to them!

Hi Julie - I would definitely say start with this one!