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Extended Audio Sample Ancient Light Audiobook, by John Banville Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (727 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Banville Narrator: Robin Sachs Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2012 ISBN: 9780449013434
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The Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea gives us a brilliant, profoundly moving new novel about an actor in the twilight of his life and his career: a meditation on love and loss, and on the inscrutable immediacy of the past in our present lives.

Is there any difference between memory and invention? That is the question that fuels this stunning novel, written with the depth of character, the clarifying lyricism and the sly humor that have marked all of John Banville’s extraordinary works. And it is the question that haunts Alexander Cleave, an actor in the twilight of his career and of his life, as he plumbs the memories of his first—and perhaps only—love (he, fifteen years old, the woman more than twice his age, the mother of his best friend; the situation impossible, thrilling, devouring, and finally devastating)…and of his daughter, lost to a kind of madness of mind and heart that Cleave can only fail to understand. When his dormant acting career is suddenly, inexplicably revived with a movie role portraying a man who may not be who he says he is, his young leading lady—famous and fragile—unwittingly gives him the opportunity to see with aching clarity the “chasm that yawns between the doing of a thing and the recollection of what was done.”

Ancient Light is a profoundly moving meditation on love and loss, on the inscrutable immediacy of the past in our present lives, on how invention shapes memory and memory shapes the man. It is a book of spellbinding power and pathos from one of the greatest masters of prose at work today.

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Quotes & Awards

  • A breathtaking new novel . . . Banville, a writer of exquisite precision and emotional depth, writes with droll inquisition and entrancing sensuality in this suspenseful drama of the obliviousnessness of lust and the weight of grief. Alex’s misremembered love story and complicated movie adventures are ravishing, poignant, and archly hilarious as the past and present converge and narrow down to a stunning revelation. Banville is supreme in this enrapturing novel of shadows and illumination. Booklist (starred)
  • A world where the past is more vivid than that present, and the dead somehow more alive than the living. . . . startlingly brilliant. The Sunday Telegraph (UK)
  • A devastating account of a boy’s sexual awakening and the loss of his childhood . . . Seamless, profound, and painfully true to the emotional lives of his characters, it is an unsettling and beautiful work. Wall Street Journal
  • A slyly constructed and stylistically buoyant novel . . . The ending [is] shattering and genuinely surprising. New York Times Book Review
  • Banville perfectly captures the spirit of adolescence, the body of yearning for sexual experience, the mind blurring eroticism and emotion. . . . [He] is a Nabokovian artist, his prose so rich, poetic and packed with startling imagery that reading it is akin to gliding regally through a lake of praline: it’s a slow, stately process, delicious and to be savoured. . . . . This is a luminous, breathtaking work. The Independent (UK)
  • Ancient Light is a brilliant meditation on desire and loss, which also skillfully reminds us, even warns us, that ‘Madam Memory is a great and subtle dissembler’ . . . [Contains] page upon page of luxurious, lyrical prose. Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • Beautiful . . . Banville is the heir to Proust, via Nabokov. The Daily Beast
  • Luminescent . . . Illuminating and often funny but ultimately devastating . . . Breathtaking beauty and profundity on love and loss and death, the final page of which brought tears. The Stockholm jury should pick up the phone now. The Financial Times
  • Banville’s prose, as gorgeous and precise as in his 2005 Man Booker winner The Sea, evokes scenes so that they burn in the reader’s mind. Sunday Express (UK)
  • The prose of the new book has a kind of luxuriant beauty, and, given the number of gorgeous arias written in difficult keys with many sharps and flats, the novel has the feel of a feverish atonal chamber opera . . . It’s as if the prose has shouldered the entire burden of undoing death and loss, an ambition rarely seen in contemporary letters. One reads Ancient Light in a state of slightly stunned admiration and disbelief that anyone still believes in literary art sufficiently to call upon its resources for these particular ends. New York Review of Books
  • Banville, with his forensic sensory memory, his great gift for textural (and textual) precision, his ability to inhabit not just a room, as a writer, but also the full weight of a breathing body, is exactly in his element here. . . . Cleverness is on display, and nothing might be quite what it seems, but Banville’s duty of care, to the emotional lives of his characters, to the worlds in which they live, is not neglected for a moment. The Observer (UK)
  • Ancient Light dazzles . . . It is a work of commanding artistry, each scene exquisitely realized in burnished prose. . . . Banville’s unmatched descriptive artistry [fixes] every fleeting moment and sensation mind with painterly precision . . . haunting beauty. The Scotsman

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Liz | 2/19/2014

    " Ancient Light was a slow reading novel because I had to go back and re-read paragraphs to savor the language. Banville's writing makes for serious reading. The plot basics are that the protagonist had an affair with is best friend's mother when he was fifteen. His memories of the affair are beautifully crafted scenes that even the character admits, could be revisions of what he actually saw and felt fifty years ago when the couple stole away to a deserted cottage. The tone of the novel reminded me of Julian Barnes's 2011 Man Booker Prize winning book, The Sense of an Ending. How accurately do we remember the past? What do we do with it as we age and reflect back? Should we have done something different and most importantly, how did our actions affect other people? Banville plays with these notions quite seriously and more heavily than Barnes did in is 150-page book. Both novels gave me pause, as a great novel should. I felt more weighed down with Banville's story but I am certainly glad I read it. His work is to be cherished. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul Stewart | 2/13/2014

    " Banville doing what he usually does - so something of a return to form after The Infinities. Lovely intertextual relation to the rest of his works. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Hao | 1/30/2014

    " He's a wonderful writer, but you're better off moving onto his other books. The first person narrator is difficult to tolerate. This is a meditation on memory and the narratives we tell ourselves, but concept alone doesn't excite. Banville's the Untouchable has a similar conceit, but is far far better. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rachel Goldberg | 1/18/2014

    " Stunning language, entrancing narrative, but ultimately a frustrating vagueness at the end. I'll definitely read more by Banville, though, because of the beauty of his prose. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Deb | 1/17/2014

    " This book was terrific! His descriptions were marvelous and his vocabulary - so many words that I had to look up! I learned alot!!! Young love, secrets, coming of age.... I highly recommend! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kristine Brancolini | 1/16/2014

    " Favorite book of 2012. One of my favorite books of all time. I have read other books by John Banville and enjoyed some of them (could not get through Infinities -- just not my style), but Ancient Light brings together all of the things that Banville does best: exotically beautiful prose, humor, a thoroughly fascinating protagonist/narrator, and a brilliantly structured plot. Wrapped in themes of love, loss, memory, and invention. I admit that the synopsis had me wondering if I would like the book: A 65-year-old man (actor Alex Cleave), recounts the story -- as he remembers it (probably inaccurately) -- of his summer-long affair with his best friend's mother, Mrs. Gray, when he was 15 and she was 35. At the same time, Cleave has been asked to star in a Hollywood biopic about critic Alex Vander, who was in Portovenere, Italy, at the same time his daughter Cass committed suicide there ten years ago. The present story is wrapped in mystery and I hope that Banville has a sequel in progress. Alex Cleave and his daughter featured in two earlier Banville novels, which I have already sought out and plan to read early in 2013. I've just finished the book and I'm reeling from its beauty, so I think I'll stop for now. Maybe come back when I can articulate more successfully what it is about this book that knocked me out. Other reviewers have said that either you like Banville's prose or you don't. I definitely do. Banville has been compared to Nabokov, because of his elegant prose and exquisite use of words you never read before. Ancient Light has been compared to Lolita, but once again, it's from the male point of view. And Mrs. Gray. Why did she do it? You will find out. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rose jackson | 1/12/2014

    " Exquisitely written exploration of complex feelings and memories. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Christine Ryan | 1/11/2014

    " It's not often that I don't finish a book once I've started reading it, but I've given up trying to stay awake with this one. Dull, dull, dull. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gilly | 1/11/2014

    " OMC-T, I love this man's prose, so delicious, so seductive, but do not completely enjoy his plots. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jennifer | 12/15/2013

    " Too slow, too little story. Might be good - it was well-written - just not keeping my interest. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julie | 12/14/2013

    " A combination of mesmerizing writing & excellent narration. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathryn | 11/28/2013

    " Beautiful prose & gripping story line "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Randi | 10/16/2013

    " A little slow to draw you in, but the woman is vividly drawn. Beautiful details about human interaction. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rakesh | 7/18/2013

    " An awesome book and it proves that John Banville is among the finest contemporary writers. There are very few books as good as this and anyone who wants to read a great book must read it... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mark | 4/16/2013

    " I was disappointed. Not as good as other works of his I've read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jill Polsby | 2/13/2013

    " Story of a young boy remembering an affair with his best friend's mother all of one summer. The story is sometimes intruded on by the truth but ismainlyhis version of things. I loved "the sea" by ban ills. Didn't like this anywhere near as much. "

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About the Author
Author John Banville

John Banville is an Irish novelist and screenwriter. His novel The Book of Evidence was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and won the Guinness Peat Aviation Award. His novel The Sea won the Booker in 2005. He sometimes writes under the open pseudonym Benjamin Black.

About the Narrator

Robin Sachs (1951–2013), actor and narrator, was raised in London and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His audiobook narrations earned ten Earphones Awards. His acting credits include Alias, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dynasty, Nowhere Man, Babylon 5, Diagnosis Murder, Galaxy Quest, Northfork, Ocean’s 11, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Megalodon.