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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Christine Falls

Black, Benjamin. Christine Falls. While I liked this much better than The Sea, John Banville (writing under pseudonym of Benjamin Black) has produced another rather strange novel that appears to substantiate his generally misanthropic view of humanity.

Set in Dublin and Boston in the 1950's, the atmosphere is dark and oppressive. Banville/Black is quite successful in giving the feel of the period and especially, a feel of the cultural difficulties of post-war Dublin. None of the characters are particularly likable, and women are treated in an almost stereotypically distasteful manner.

The plot (which moves slowly with lots of hints) involves lost or stolen children and orphanages that have a sinister purpose. Loss and grief seem to be a theme the author wants to develop, but because none of the characters have much of a moral or ethical depth, I found the themes of hypocrisy and betrayal to be the most believable.

We are introduced to another dysfunctional and gothically perverse family and a main character (named Quirke, in case you don't get the many quirks of fate) who barely seems to function. When he does function, we are led to believe that almost everything he does in pursuing the mystery is out of character for the man who has never looked deeply into relationships and who has spent the better part of his life drunk or sleep-walking through most the point that he appears to have "forgotten" an unforgettable occasion.

The first in a series to feature Quirke, the novel seems to fall loosely into the crime/suspense genre, but I'm not much interested in pursuing Quirke.

Fiction. Crime/suspense/mystery. 2006. 340 pages.


  1. Oh man. I read 'The Sea' and I hated it SO much that it turned me off Banville forever, even though I know there are people out there that LOVE him. Good to know Ben Black is a pseudonym - I'll make a note to avoid him, too.

  2. One I won't be adding to my list either. Thanks, Jenclair.

  3. I've heard such great things about this book. I haven't read anything by the author before, but I will probably give this one a try just as a test run.

    I watched an interview with the author and thought it was quite interesting. The author said he purposefully changed his writing style when he was writing as Benjamin Black. As someone who has read his work under both names, do you agree?

  4. I liked Christine Falls much more than you did, but that's okay. You can read my review here if you like.

    I'm a bit suprised to find out that this will be the first in a series. Quirke just didn't really seem to have a series in him. Not that he's an uninteresting character, I think he is. He just doesn't seem like someone who would go through it all again, not if he could help it.

    That said, if there are more, I'll probably check them out.

  5. Raych - I felt the same way about The Sea, but thought maybe I'd like the mystery. Didn't hate it, but still had less than a luke-warm response.

    Booklogged - Banville/Black just doesn't seem to be my cup of tea, but those who love him feel very strongly.

    L.F. _- Do give it a chance. I enjoy seeing reviews of books I didn't care for...sometimes they make me thing a bit harder about my own opinions. Not change my mind, but examine my reasoning more closely.

    The style is different from The Sea, especially the narrative style, but then the mystery genre requires a bit more direction in the narrative.

    CB. - Quite a few people like Banville and are firmly in his camp.

    I found it odd that Banville/Black planned a series built on Quirke, too, and wondered if the series would pursue Mal and the Judge's involvement in the Knights.

  6. I still find it interesting that he chose a pseudonym to write this novel. I actually looked for this one yesterday but didn't find it at the library. I've heard a lot of mixed reviews on it too. I think I'll give it a go one of these days.

  7. iliana - I guess to keep it separate from his "literary" persona. I'd be interested to know what you thought about it - if you ever get around to it.

  8. My hubby LOVED this book and recommended it to another. He described Quirke as smart, flawed, and tough. He was reminded of the Dave Robicheaux character by James Lee Burke just set in Ireland. He also said it was Walter Mosley like.

  9. Maggie - I wouldn't have thought of Dave Robicheaux, but they are both dark, brooding characters. Burke's novels are also dark and gritty. I can see what your husband means, but I like James Lee Burke better.