The Singularities

Fans of Irish novelist John Banville (Snow; Holy Orders, writing as Benjamin Black; Ancient Light) will recognize many of the characters, even one now using an assumed name, in The Singularities. They include Adam Godley Jr., son of the famous mathematician Adam Godley Sr., and young Adam's wife, Helen. Also returning is Freddie Montgomery, who committed murder in The Book of Evidence and returned in two of Banville's subsequent works. This time, intent on "total transformation," Montgomery calls himself Felix Mordaunt. He has been released from prison after "some twenty years of a mandatory life sentence" and has returned to Coolgrange, his childhood estate. Only now it's called Arden House, Godley's family lives there and Mordaunt returns to work as the family's driver. One of his fares is William Jaybey, whom the younger Adam has hired to write a biography of his father, celebrated for having developed something called the Brahma theory. But Jaybey has a long-held vendetta against the deceased Godley and plans to get revenge by "chipping away with mallet and chisel" at his reputation.

Intrigues follow and secrets are revealed in this exceptional work. Like many Banville novels, this one is heavier on descriptions than plot, but what exquisite descriptions: a gate at Arden House has "rust reminiscent of a dusting of roughly ground cinnamon" and gives "the impression of leaning dejectedly over itself, limp and blear-eyed, defeated by the years." The Singularities is like a carriage ride along a country lane: it proceeds slowly, affording ample time to admire the scenery. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

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