Number of pages: 220
Started: 26 March 2008
Finished: 3 April 2008
Summary (taken from blurb):
Freddie Montgomery has committed two crimes. He stole a small Dutch master from a wealthy family friend, and he murdered a chambermaid who caught him in the act.
He has little to say about the dead girl. He killed her, he says, because he was physically capable of doing so. It made perfect sense to smash her head in with a hammer. What he cannot understand, and would desperately like to know, is why he was so moved by an unattributed portrait of a middle-aged woman that he felt compelled to steal it...
I thought this was a brilliant novel. Banville has a knack for getting into a character's mind and imparting all sorts of truths about human nature in the process. I can see why he has been compared to Vladimir Nabokov, and it also reminded me of Crime and Punishment in some ways. John Banville has said that he tries to give his prose 'the kind of denseness and thickness that poetry has', and I think he succeeds admirably.
Freddie Montgomery tells his story in the form of a written confession to a courtroom. He intersperses tales of his childhood with his current situation, giving the reader an insight into his personality and reasoning behind his decisions. It's a little disturbing and also a little amusing in places.
Often I feel a little let down after reading 'modern' literature. They never seem to measure up to older 'classics'. Happily, this is not the case with John Banville and I will certainly be reading more of his work in the future. I can already hear 'The Sea' calling to me from my TBR pile.
Very highly recommended.