245 pp (hardcover)
5 July 2012
| 3.6/5 |
| John Banville books, Actor books|
Ancient Light is a 2012 novel by Irish writer John Banville. First published on 7 July 2012, the novel concludes a trilogy concerning Alexander Cleave and his daughter, Cass. Ancient Light was preceded by Shroud and Eclipse.
Ancient Light Wikipedia
Ancient Light is narrated by Alexander Cleave, a 60-something year-old retired actor, and takes place 10 years after the death of his daughter Cass in Eclipse. Cleave begins to record his memories of a first, unlikely affair he had at age 15 with Mrs Gray, a married woman 20 years his senior. "Billy Gray was my best friend and I fell in love with his mother." The book moves between memories of this affair and his current state of grief he shares with his wife Lydia, touching on themes of family, love, grief, and the reliability of memory. His solitude is interrupted by an offer to play the lead in a film entitled The Invention of the Past. The film is to be based on the life of literary theorist Axel Vander, the man with Cass when she killed herself in Italy. On the set Cleave bonds with Dawn Devonport, an emotionally fragile young ingenue mourning the death of her father. As Cleave continues to narrate his past relationship with Mrs Gray to its inevitable conclusion, the father-daughter relationship grows between him and Dawn.
Critical reception for Ancient Light has been mostly positive, with a reviewer for the The Independent calling it a "luminous, breathtaking work." Critics for The Guardian also reviewed Ancient Light, with Tim Adams praising Banville's themes and "cleverness" while Alex Clark wrote that the dual narrative was "disorienting". The Telegraph gave the book three out of five stars, writing that it is "notably, though for the most part seamlessly, light-fingered – strings of Yeses from Ulysses, bits of Eliot, a hazel wood from Yeats, a lovely quote from Leopardi". The Harvard Crimson panned the novel, saying that "[t]he major weakness of “Ancient Light,” however, lies is not in its moments of gimmickry but in its vagueness".
Ancient Light won the Irish Book Awards in the Novel category (2012). Colm Tóibín named it one of his books of the year.