Share for friends:

Christine Falls (2015)

Christine Falls (2015)

Book Info

3.45 of 5 Votes: 3
Your rating
0805081526 (ISBN13: 9780805081527)
henry holt and co.

About book Christine Falls (2015)

Benjamin Black is the pseudonym for Booker-prize winning author John Banville, and this novel reads very much like a practitioner of high literary fiction swapped his tweed blazer for a trench coat. And yet Banville does not seem able to match the concomitant gait and attitude of the trench-coat wearing type. First, there's the dense, mellifluous prose, which was very enjoyable to read on the one hand, but as the action got underway it began to bog the story down. I'm all for delayed gratification and readerly tension, but there were frequent long, rangy paragraphs of scenery description plunked down in the middle of otherwise well-paced and sharp-eared dialogue, and overlong otherwise lovely passages of internality that proved to be distractions from the action. Still, the narrative is written in an elegant and confident free indirect style that constantly reminds you that this Banville guy really knows what he's doing when it comes to putting words down on the page. But the more crime novels I read the more I develop a bias in favor of those slim 200- to 250-page novels that are all story with only minimal scenery. And then there is the plot, which I will not go into in detail lest I have to hide behind a spoiler alert, save to say that although the story does indeed develop into a pleasing, somewhat tense rolling boil after a while, the central mystery--which is really more of a conspiracy--at the heart of the novel amounts to very little in the end. Indeed, it seems like the most interesting part of the story is set to occur after the novel ends.Finally, I found myself getting irked at some of the protagonist's characteristics that, had I not recently glutted myself on crime fiction, would perhaps not bother me so much. But when you read a lot of noir, post-noir, and wanna-be-noir fiction, it's hard not to notice an obvious, problematic pattern among protagonists: namely, they are all male, they are loners living alone with no spouse or children, they drink to excess on a daily basis and--most mysterious of all--are frequently objects of sexual desire to attractive women. It's hard not to feel that the entire genre is at root a male wish-fulfillment fantasy, wherein perpetually inebriated man children spend their permanent bachelorhood wading through back alleys and subterranean pool halls in pursuit of the TRUTH, all while fending off the advances of hot women with varying degrees of success and nursing some elusive, oblique man pain. It's almost as if this particular brand of crime novel is less concerned with the crime than with soothing the fears of aging men by giving them a hero just like them, but who can still pick up women and solve crime while drinking to intervention-levels of excess on a daily basis. Now that I write that, I wonder just why it is that I've been reading so many of these books lately. But anyway....I raise this all because Quirke, the sardonic scamp occupying the lead role of this novel, checks all these boxes: lone wolf alcoholic, develops an unhealthy involvement in a case for no clear reason beyond a sense of righteousness and because of some passing resonance to an old personal tragedy that pains him to this day. Quirke is pretty textbook in this regard. And despite the competence with which Banville/Black render his character--or perhaps because Quirke is drawn so well--these stereotypical noir hero vices seem to limit his character in important ways. It was hard not to feel that a dogmatic adherence to the noir prototype kept Quirke confined to the purgatory of two dimensional protagonists throughout this novel, much to his--and the novel's--detriment.

"I'm no more morbid than the next pathologist."- Benjamin Black, Christine Falls"The murdered dead, You thought. But could it not have been some violent shattered boy nosing out what got mislaid between the cradle and the explosion."- Seamus Heaney, from 'The Badger'It is hard to review this novel without wanting to give the whole chreche away. The nasty, dark, secretive details of this book are where it's all at, but I'm afraid if I started swinging around just one detail, I would end up spilling it all. Dropping the baby I was dangling. So, I'll just stick with some of the things that are obvious and have already been said. Benjamin Black is really John Banville. The Man Booker award winner who wrote The Sea and The Untouchable. Banville is a serious artist. He has been honored with such wild descriptions as the "the heir to Proust, via Nabokov." So, what does a serious, literary author do for money? I remember reading once that the poet Allen Ginsberg made less than $70k per year at the height of his success. For most authors/poets, literature just doesn't sell or pay the damn mortgage. So, there is option 1) literature + professorship. This seems to be the route of a lot of serious fiction writers. William H. Gass is a professor, so too was Vladimir Nabokov. Yes, true. Many of these top tier authors get their jobs because of their notoriety and the benefit it brings to the University. It works well for all involved. So, there is option 2) literature + other job. This is the route chosen by T.S. Eliot and Franz Kafka. You write at night, work selling insurance or something during the day. But there is also option 3) literature + entertainments.* This happens, but not as often as the others.Probably the best example of this is Graham Greene. He wrote his serious major novels: Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, The End of the Affair, The Quiet American, etc. But he also wrote his entertainments: Stamboul Train, A Gun for Sale, The Confidential Agent, The Third Man, Our Man in Havana, Travels With My Aunt, etc. These were his less serious novels. His spy novels. I'm not sure if Greene meant they were inferior, but I don't think he took them quite as seriously. The reason I bring this up is because I think that is what the Quirke novels of John Banville are. His quirky (sorry, I had to) entertainments. They aren't mean to be dripping with poetry. They aren't supposed to be masterpieces. They are supposed to be entertaining. But because they are written by Banville they can't help being great entertainments. The writing is tight. They pacing is fantastic. It works. I loved it. It wasn't a perfect novel, but I'll give it to Banville. I think he has the opportunity to write a perfect entertainment. One that is on par with John le Carré or Graham Greene.* There is also family money, etc., but I'm already bored with my list making.

Do You like book Christine Falls (2015)?

Though Banville uses a different name on this novel, his voice is more or less the same as it always is. And it's his voice that saves it from itself, from the muck and suck of the deadbeat plot. I was led to believe this was a mystery novel. I don't know why. Maybe I led myself to believe that. Maybe it was some review I read or thought I read. But Christine Falls is not a mystery novel. It is a mysterious novel. Nothing wrong with that. Except that it also has many mystery elements to it. Which leads me to believe that it wants to be a mystery novel. And a few of the characters (Andy and Claire, especially) seem to have been dug up from one of the lesser Jim Thompson novels and forced to act in a play they should have no part of. In fact, many of the Boston-area scenes seem to have an air of pastiche about them, like a creative collage using cut-outs from mid-twentieth century American magazines. Lucky for us, Banville can write in an English that is completely natural in cadence while being utterly otherworldly in style. Lucky for us, his English elevates what could elsewise be considered a frowny-faced Frankenstein ('s monster, I know!) of a novel, a gag, a prank. It makes it worth reading. If you're into that sort of thing.
—Brent Legault

Black, Benjamin. CHRISTINE FALLS. (2006). ****. This is the first of Black’s (pseudonym of John Banville) series of mysteries featuring Quirke, a pathologist in Ireland. I seriously recommend that you start off with this first installment, and not read a subsequent one before it. There is a lot of background into Quirke’s personal life provided here that is ofter referred to in the later novels. The title is the name of a young woman who died of post-partum hemorraghing, but whose death certificats says she died of a pulmonary embolism. What alerts Quirke to this disparity in actual events is when he catches his co-adoptive brother, Malachy Griffin, an obstetrician at the same hospital, changing the entries on the document. Quirke also finds out that there was a child born to this woman, a girl, who was supposed to have been stillborn, but learned that she was still alive and had been carried off to America for subsequent adoption. When Quirke probes further into this mystery and enlists the aid of a woman who had helped the dead girl, he finds himself attacked in a back alley by two thugs, leaving him with his ensuing limp, and that the woman had been killed. The pursuit of the young girl and the organization behind her transport leads Quirke deep into the powerful Catholic families in Ireland and America – onw of which is his own adoptive family, the Griffins. It is when he makes a trip to Boston with his (supposed) niece that he learns all of the gory details, and solves the mystery of the death of Christine Falls. Recommended.

I just finished this book. As I was reading this book, I feel like I have weighted blanket after weighted blanket added to my shoulders until I was hunched over almost in a ball of depression. The book is written well and while I don't mind a book that is deep and dramatic, this was so much more and beyond that I don't think I enjoyed (can I use that word even?) this book at all. It's not even a book that will make me question some kind of injustice, it just left me deeply depressed. So I have it 3 stars because it is written well and not 4 because I feel like just crawling in my bed in a ball. Super depressing.
—Carolyn F.

download or read online

Read Online

Write Review

(Review will shown on site after approval)

Other books by author John Banville

Other books in series Quirke

Other books in category Fantasy