On a languid midsummers day in the countryside, old Adam Godley, a renowned theoretical mathematician, is dying. His family gathers at his bedside: his son, young Adam, struggling to maintain his marriage to a radiantly beautiful actress; his 19-year-old daughter, Petra, filled with voices and visions as she waits for the inevitable; their stepmother, Ursula, whose relations with the Godley children are strained at best; and Petras young man very likely more interested in the father than the daughter who has arrived for a superbly ill-timed visit.
But the Godley family is not alone in their vigil. Around them hovers a family of mischievous immortals among them, Zeus, who has his eye on young Adams wife; Pan, who has taken the doughy, perspiring form of an old unwelcome acquaintance; and Hermes, who is the genial and omniscient narrator: We too are petty and vindictive, he tells us, just like you, when we are put to it. As old Adams days on earth run down, these unearthly beings start to stir up trouble, to sometimes wildly unintended effect.
Blissfully inventive and playful, rich in psychological insight and sensual detail, The Infinities is at once a gloriously earthy romp and a wise look at the terrible, wonderful plight of being humanely dazzling novel from one of the most widely admired and acclaimed writers at work today.
©2010 John Banville (P)2010 Random House
I'm trying to wean myself and learn to function without earbuds for more than ten minutes at a time. It hasn't been easy. I lose balance...
I have to say it took me some time to get into it, but now I am quite taken with the narrator and listening a second time. And find myself thinking about reality too much. It's not action packed. But it's depth is charming. Nobody has the answers, the smartest and brightest of the deities themselves have white soft bellies. And everyone seems wrapped in this quiet comedy about life and love and family. Plus, it's oddly out of time. Futuristic concepts are mentioned while a nineteenth century cottage feel is described. THe path of it all actually made me stop doing things and rewind once or twice.Not out of confusion of action - but thought processes, which I appreciate. The daily rituals of human bodily crass-ness as envied by the interfering, fallible gods. Charmed is it I think. I was afraid it would be just sad and depressing - but it's more bittersweet...with a dollop the ridiculous of our own importance mixed in... I don't know what i expected with a main character in a coma, but this has been a tad bit amusingly addictive.
Britain has so many wonderful novelists just now but Banville is surely one of the best. The Infinities is witty, sweet, funny, generous to say nothing of as clever as all get out, and plays beautifully with the contemporary fascination with the conflation of science and literature. Beautifully read, too. Don't miss it.
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