Thursday, May 10, 2007

Black Literature


Baffled, middle-aged Irishman confronts the ghosts of his past in a lyrically-written account peppered with dark revelations. Sounds like a new book by John Banville – only, this is a mystery novel written by debutant Benjamin Black (whose real name, by the way, is – er – John Banville).

Set primarily in 1950s Dublin, Christine Falls introduces us to pathologist Garret Quirke who discovers, late one drunken night, that his pediatrician brother-in-law is falsifying the death certificate of a young woman who’s died during childbirth. His investigations lead him to the “confusion, mistakes, damage” related to his deceased wife, daughter and members of his extended family, all centered on a Catholic orphanage in Boston.

Since this is Banville, after all, the prose is a delight: superbly-crafted sentences revealing interior and exterior landscapes that, at times, afford an almost sensuous pleasure. (The author’s formidable vocabulary, so clearly on display in his other books, creeps in occasionally: consider the word ‘phthisic’, for example.) There is, too, a masterly pattern to the release of information, and the resonances between past and present. Quirke is an interesting and intriguing creation whose befuddlement and melancholy waft off the page.

Worth your while? Perfect for the dark monsoon days that, we’re told, will be here soon.

No comments: