By John Banville
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 287 pages
The title Ancient Light is a reference to light that’s projected by stars millions of light-years away that takes millions of years to reach human eyes; by the time people see that light, they’re essentially looking directly into the past. That’s very appropriate for John Banville’s Ancient Light, since half the story (and possibly more than that) is basically the narrator looking into the past while he balances the events happening in the present time.
“Time and Memory are a fussy firm of interior decorators, always shifting the furniture about and redesigning and even reassigning rooms.”
Alex, the narrator, is an actor who landed a role in a film opposite a famous actress, portraying the life of a literary critic named Axel. The reader may see a similarity in those two names – that’s not an accident. This novel is full of literary techniques that complement its deep musings on love, life and relationships. As mentioned before, the novel tells two stories: one of Alex’s boyhood relationship with his best friend’s mother, and the second taking place in the present time as Alex looks for answers involving the death of his daughter.
This is an excellent novel, well written and sophisticated.
Reviewed by Gregory A. Young