Deborah Moulton's Reviews > Elegy for April

Elegy for April by Benjamin Black
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Apr 22, 2010

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The third book in the Benjamin Black (a.k.a. John Banville) series is really more of a straight up novel than a detective genre story. It is a more thorough examination of the author's central character, Irish pathologist Dr. Quirke.

Even more to the point, it is an examination of a life's accumulation of injuries and, maybe even more importantly, self injuries meant to deaden the tragic past and avoid the unpleasant present. Alcoholism, loneliness, and a distant, erratic relationship with his daughter form the foundation of the story.

Quirke is fully in mid-life with a troubled, grown daughter and a gaping hole in his life where normalcy should reside. Normalcy abandoned him in an orphanage as a child and he abandoned normalcy in adult life, burrowing into a despair so deep it has literally hollowed out his life.

This would be a gloomy, downer of a book if it wasn't for all the green shoots in Quirke's life indicating a thaw. He starts with a six-month absence to treat his alcoholism. He falls off the wagon back in the real world, but intermittantly and always with the voice of his therapist in his head talking through the choices he's making. He buys a hideously expensive sports car even though he can't drive. He learns to drive and rediscovers the exhiliration of racing forward.

He also finds a woman: a sympathetic actress with a street-smart understanding human nature and needs of her own. It implies the development of a deeper relationship, perhaps in the next book?

I'm not sure this book stands on its own. It's a character study and without the two other books for backstory, it would fail to have the necessary resonance. For a patient reader, it has its rewards.


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