by Julie HaleAugust, 2006
Coming to terms with a personal history
Banville's haunting new novel, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2005, examines the experiences of a successful art historian struggling to recover from the death of his wife. Unable to proceed with his book-in-progress, Max Morden travels to a small resort town on the coast of Ireland where he spent a summer holiday as a child. Fifty years have passed since Max's last visit, when he met Chloe and Myles, twins from the well-to-do Grace family, who were also vacationing in the village. The unusual friendship that developed between the three children left a permanent impression on Max, and his return to the town results in an attempt to come to grips with the dark experiences of that long-ago holiday. The disturbing events of the summer are hinted at as the novel unfolds, and in the characters of Chloe and Myles, Banville presents an unforgettable pair. Myles is a mute, while Chloe is his opposite, outspoken and fearless. As twins, the two are united by a special bond, yet they're receptive to the presence of Max, and his participation in the family's downfall is recounted with shocking precision by the author. The melancholy power of this narrative stems, in part, from the subtle interplay between the past and the present. This is a resonant account of one man's attempt to come to terms with his personal history.
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