Review of 'Ghosts'

Ghosts by John Banville reviewed by the Cuidiu Reading Group affiliated to Raheny Library.

Ghosts opens with a group of temporary castaways landing on a remote island for a day. Their boat has run aground and they must await the next high tide to leave. This motley crew end up in a household of strange characters. Firstly, our never-named narrator, a man who has served a prison sentence for murder (we deduce, because the crime is not really specified). He now lives and works with Professor Kreutznaer, an art expert who is researching a book about a minor painter. The third occupant of the household is Licht, the butler, housekeeper, and owner of the house. The narrative broadly follows the interaction between these characters and their visitors and the internal thought processes of the murderer.

The scene is thus set but it would be misleading to imply that what follows is a plot. Even some distance into the book I had difficulty determining exactly what was happening in the narrative. Apparently this is the second book in a trilogy: the first being The Book of Evidence and the second being Athena. This fact is not at all clear from Ghosts so it might be a good idea for me to have read the books in order. Having been thoroughly confused and frustrated reading Ghosts I can't see myself picking up another John Banville novel in a hurry. Not to be too offputting the language in the book is beautiful and the evocation of the atmosphere on the island, whether it is the light through a window, the smell of a room, the feeling of a fabric or the colour and movement of the sea is beautiful and startling. Perhaps I'm too fixated on narrative? Read it and judge for yourself...

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