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The Book of Evidence by John Banville
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's review
Mar 26, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: irish-authors
Read from March 26 to April 01, 2010

Well, what does one say about a first-person confessional written from a prison cell? That the narrator is suave, educated and erudite—a somewhat accidental murderer—is both charming and disarming; within the first few pages, I was reminded of the structure of Nabokov's Lolita. Indeed, Freddie Montgomery shares quite a few traits with good ol' Hum, not the least of which is an unhealthy dose of unreliability as a narrator. Not among them however is motive; their pathologies are quiet different: whereas Clare Quilty's famous killer was a man moved by insane obsession, Freddie is moved only by the passage of time and forces he hardly registers. He seems particularly Irish.

The novel is suffused with literary allusions, most of which I'm sure went over my head; but I did notice the nod to Nabokov (and Wilde before him): when Freddie steals a car, it's from a rural rental agent called "Melmoth's ar Hire" (apparently the "C" in car was faded away). And the car he fecks-off in? Why a Humber, of course.

This is my third novel by John Banville; I read The Sea, his Booker-prize winner, two-and-a-half years ago and while I remember enjoying it, I don't recall anything about it. Earlier this year I read Kepler and didn't much care for it. I don't think I'll have any trouble remembering The Book of Evidence; it stands not only as evidence of a murderer's delusions, but also makes a prima facia case for Banville's wit, insight and craft.

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Reading Progress

03/30/2010 page 125

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