Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Untouchable

I enjoyed this book tremendously. John Banville has created in the character of Victor Maskell someone both complex and believable; the story is suspenseful, and his prose, as always, can only be described as both luminous and effortless.
He describes his voyage to France early in the war: "The night was preternaturally calm, and our troopship, a converted steamer which before the outbreak of war had ferried day trippers between Wales and the Isle of Man, glided intently as a knife through the milky, unreally moonlit sea."(p. 184)
The novel surveys the complications of leading multiple lives as husband, father, spy and closet homosexual. All this done with aplomb and wit, taste and style. Maskell has a love for the work of Nicolas Poussin that is evidenced by his devotion to his painting, The Death of Seneca. This plays an important role as Maskell's narration of his life as it winds onward through the book. Apparently the fictional character was loosely based on the real life of Anthony Blunt. John Banville has created another masterpiece of storytelling.

The Untouchable by John Banville. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1997.

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