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Athena (Frames: The Freddie Montgomery Trilogy #3)

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  445 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
From the internationally acclaimed author of The Book of Evidence and Ghosts comes a mesmerizing novel that is both a literary thriller and a love story as sumptuously perverse as Lolita. "A strange and dreamlike book . . . Banville has a breathtaking style."--Boston Globe.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 28th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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Michael Battaglia
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I think the hardest concept to explain to people who don't write about the act of writing itself is the idea of presentation, that just because a story essentially boils down to "this happened, then this happened, then this happened, and then it turned out it was the dog all along" doesn't mean you have to write it that way. Many a person has an amazing idea for a plot but doesn't quite grasp that you can tell me what happened, but that doesn't mean I'm going to find it all that intere ...more
Oct 06, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third novel in a trilogy that includes The Book of Evidence, Ghosts, and Athena. Told in the present tense by an unreliable first-person narrator calling himself Morrow - which he admits is a pseudonym adopted in an unsuccessful attempt to disguise his identity, his past clouded by an unsavory crime - this story is enigmatic, a house of mirrors, like trying to see past underwater distortions without confidence or clarity. Banville’s ability to conjure up a surrealistic atmosphere is ...more
Eddie Watkins
May 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: uk-fiction
I have about 20 pages to go and I'm looking forward to moving on to something more authentic, even if it's not as exquisitely well written as Athena, I don't care. There are so many echoes of Nabokov in Athena I can barely hear Banville at times, though Nabokov rarely if ever got as explicit in his nastiness as sir Banville. I don't mind nasty explicitness, but when coupled with an academic-type grace it can strike me as inauthentic, as a sort of slumming exercise. I have no idea what Banville's ...more
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I love this book so much. John Banville is a much under appreciated author, i think. read him. its delicious!
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a recent novel that is both difficult and enjoyable - which means it is not written by an American author. Athena is a novel with all of Thomas Pynchon's ambition though a fraction his impenetrability.

Banville's unreliable (and self-deprecating) first-person narrator is a treat who, despite most of his confessions coming parenthetically, fills parts of this novel with pleasant surprises. The story doesn't really materialize, certainly in no obvious way for a reader unfamiliar with this b
Jun 19, 2007 rated it liked it
I read this after reading The Sea, which I thought was one of the most beautifully written books I've come across. Banville is an extraordinarily poetic author; he employs unexpected, uncommon, but perfectly chosen words as one would apply just the right amount of paint to a canvas. This is true of Athena as well, apt given the plot. However, I had been expecting a thriller, having seen the novel described that way somehwere, and as a result was disappointed generically. To clarify, I had been e ...more
Catherine O'Sullivan
Almost inevitably a disappointment, given my fascination with The Book of Evidence. I haven't read Ghosts, the middle title in this loose trilogy, nor am I particularly inclined to, after this slight failing. It felt to me like a sketch for a book, rather than a finished project. Freddie's voice in TBOE is so hideously seductive, I feel drunk and debauched every time I pick that novel up. But here, it is wan and slightly out-of-focus. Still a good book, because you can always count on Banville f ...more
Mark Janowiak
Apr 22, 2010 rated it liked it
I don't know what I think of this book. I had trouble concentrating & don't know if that's my fault or the books,
Feb 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: irish-authors
In Athena, the narrator—Freddy Montgomery from The Book of Evidence—gets involved with some shady people who have acquired some minor 17th Dutch masters; they want Freddie (now "Morrow", he changed his name after getting out of prison to "Morrow", for—of course—tomorrow) to assess the paintings, give his opinion on whether they are in fact genuine. The main fellow, who is very creepy, almost gangster-ish, is named Morden (no first name); he's supposedly a real estate developer, bought this 18th ...more
Roger Brunyate
May 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Bizarre Baroque

The old dilemma: award stars according to the author's mastery (close to 5) or to reflect my own enjoyment of the book (2 or 3 at most)? There, right on the front cover, is a quotation from the San Francisco Chronicle: "A thriller… by Ireland's master of the exquisite and uncanny whose brilliant use of prose narration places him in a league with Joyce and Beckett." True—yet it made me reflect what a dubious legacy Joyce bequeathed to Irish intellectuals who followed after.

"My love
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
Unorganized thoughts:

- I really enjoyed this. I almost want to give it five stars, but I feel like I should save those for the best of the best, and this lacked that little something to push it over the top. It's fantastic, though, and I'm really in awe of John Banville (I recently said the same thing about Alain Robbe-Grillet. In their own weird way they have a lot in common). His prose is basically perfect. I don't know how else I can put it. His careful word choices, his careful details, his
I read this book many years ago, and since I could not remember a thing about it, I decided to re-read it. But alas, I found out why it was not worth remembering. While the plot here is paper-thin, the narrator is so unreliable that most of the story remains completely opaque and surreal. Once more, Banville gives us the solipsistic musings of a middle-aged man in rapture, tangled up in an affair with a woman decidedly not of his age group.

To understand the plot a bit better, it helps to know t
Robert Olsen
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Help! Help! I've fallen and I can't get up! I'm terribly afraid yet oddly expectant. What? Where am I? you ask.

My surroundings -- those that my awed gaze is at least capable of distinguishing -- are louche, dark, feverish yet preternaturally calm; the sky, a hare - coat gray. Images of you, of my doomy rescuer (whom I shall call Athena or simply A), of art, of misconstrued childhood embarrassments, not of mine perhaps but rather of my nearly forgotten or spontaneously invented son, thick with th
Jul 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mid 3. Having left such a vivid portrait of a charming and brutal murderer in the first book of this trilogy, the author returns to recount the travails of the same character as he attempts to forge a new life for himself upon release. Though the author has recaptured some of the narrative resonance of the first novel, Freddie Montgomery, under the guise of a new identity, Morrow, appears more of a pitiable tragic character than the self-obsessed and remorseless figure presented in 'The Book of ...more
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: serious
[rating = B]
A very raunchy, not to say that it was bad, type of Banville. Such a wonderful style. His breaks are carefully calculated, beautiful, and open up the possibility of the character's personality. Most likely an unreliable narration, it also can prove to be a realistic, if not truthful near the end, narration. Art, Art, and more art. Stolen, faked, real. Love comes, or is it fake love!?, everything is either real or a forgery, people and things alike. This is a search for truth, and yet
Garlan ✌
Another typical Banville novel; not a lot of plot, but great with wordsmithing. His novels read as almost stream of consciousness, but they're not. This is the third novel in what Banvill calls his "tryptich", and follows the musings of Morrow (an ex-con from earlier novels) as he gets involved with a shady cast of characters, and falls in love with"A", a mysterious woman who occupies most of his time (and a large part of the novel). If you're already a Banville fan, you'll probably like this bo ...more
Jul 19, 2009 rated it liked it
This is the last novel in a trilogy that includes Book of Evidence and Ghosts. I'm now, I guess, an official Banville fan; I'm captivated by his style. But Athena was disappointing. Though full of the felicities one can expect from Banville's writing, the protagonist, Freddie (now calling himself Morrow), has largely abandoned his journey of self-exploration after the murder he committed in Book of Evidence, and is obsessed with a woman with whom he's having a clandestine affair. But I asked whi ...more
Mar 02, 2009 rated it liked it
This is for me Banville's most difficult work. At one level there is the style and the book itself, which extends his love of deception – it seems to be the third part after the Book of Evidence and Ghosts, but this is never fully revealed. It's also difficult in that after you work through it doesn't give much. Characteristically, there are gorgeous, startling, dark and funny passages, and the descriptions of the paintings would make Perec proud, but these exercises didn't resonate like the oth ...more
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
I have absolutely loved everything else I've read by John Banville, and was really excited about this going in. About halfway through in a haze I realized I had picked up the third book in a trilogy (definitely not clearly marked) but even still, found this book tough to get through. Beautiful writing as I would expect from Banville, but tough to follow the plot, the relationships between the characters, and what is real versus what the narrator believes is real. Reminded me of the more opaque o ...more
Mark Joyce
A difficult, frustrating book that I was relieved to finish. Banville always works close to the boundary between daring stylistic originality and Martin Amis-esque pretentiousness but Athena unfortunately falls on the wrong side. Feels as though it may have been as painful to write as it was to read. It would be interesting to know whether there was any correlation between the writing of this book and Banville’s diversification into the more direct, narrative-driven style of his alter-ego Benjam ...more
Nov 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Freddie gets in over his head, finds love and loses it. What's there here that's interesting to new readers? Maybe the sex angle, I don't know. What's in it for readers from The Book of Evidence and Ghosts? Some shout outs to the previous novels, and the culmination of an aesthetic dream in Freddie's head from the first turned large and come back to bite off his head. I don't know, guys. Banville's had better days.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
I am not in the habit of consulting other comments upon a book before I post. But Athena was a bit baffling, especially since I have liked so much of Banville's work so much in the past. I read it fairly quickly and with interest (mostly). The style, characterization and vocabulary impressed mightily, per usual. But something was missing. Publisher's Weekly nailed it: "The point of all this angst is never quite clear."

Jun 24, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"And that night I had the strangest dream, I remember it. You were in it." Banville's book covers are hot to touch. You get the warning on the back. Do Not Touch because something "harrowing" takes place within, the characters are at "loose ends." But you put on the gloves and open to the first page. Enough of this metaphor. "In this painter's dark and sickly world nothing is certain but suffering. " - there Banville says it.
The narrator has a guilty conscience and is not just a little unreliable in what he tells us. The story is about art theft, forgery, a mysterious woman, and a passionate love affair. The way this story is told, is what makes this book so brilliant... because the reader is left guessing as to what is real, what is fiction, what is true, and what is a lie or a false recollection. Strange but fascinating book.
Jeanette Lewis
Mar 21, 2016 rated it liked it
The final book of this Trilogy. I have found all 3 depressing. Freddie is a victim of his own ill deeds, a narsissitic, dark and isolated person. The only redemption for him in this last book is the hint of concern regarding his Aunt, although he makes decisions that he immediately regrets as the self centred side of his personality kicks in. Told mostly in the first person which can be very boring at times.
Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Banville is a gorgeous writer, and I want to go back over his prose at times. But Athene is one of those obsessive love/sex novels that just don't do much for me. Actually, Marguerite Duras' The Lover, or Hawkes Travesty, are books I have loved and been fascinated by that follow a sort of erotic obsession to its limit.
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
John Banville is one of my favorite authors. I especially liked The Sea and I've also enjoyed his Benjamin Black books. Athena, while containing beautifully written passages, was just too enigmatic for me. I can't give this a truly fair review because I didn't finish the book but it just didn't have enough going for it to keep my interest.
Christopher Sutch
Jul 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Much of Banville's prose is lovely. This is a reflection on authenticity and imagination (and ultimately wisdom, of course), but suffers, in my view, from a lack of sympathetic characters. Banville never really succeeded in making me care about the narrator or his problems, worries, and obsessions. I was more interested in the art, fake or otherwise, that structured the novel.
Peggy Aylsworth
Aug 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Although John Banville's writing always keeps me reading his work...I thought this novel was the weakest of the three in his loose trilogy.
The reason I gave it four stars was based on the absolutely lyrical passages that come along every so often...quite remarkable
James Debruicker
Dec 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
It's about art thieves, and forgery, and creativity, and it's a mystery.

Oh, and about a fifth of it is devoted to this IMPOSSIBLY hot lifestyle D/s relationship between the protagonist and a mysterious woman.

So that was fun.
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Banville was born in Wexford, Ireland. His father worked in a garage and died when Banville was in his early thirties; his mother was a housewife. He is the youngest of three siblings; his older brother Vincent is also a novelist and has written under the name Vincent Lawrence as well as his own. His sister Vonnie Banville-Evans has written both a children's novel and a reminiscence of growing up ...more
More about John Banville...

Other Books in the Series

Frames: The Freddie Montgomery Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Book of Evidence
  • Ghosts (The Freddie Montgomery Trilogy #2)

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“Encline aux vérités qui tuent, elle n'avait nulle intention de blesser.” 0 likes
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