Birchwood (Vintage International) by John Banville

By John Banville

An early vintage from the guy Booker-prize successful writer of the ocean. i'm accordingly i believe. So starts off John Banville’s 1973 novel Birchwood, a singular that facilities round Gabriel Godkin and his go back to his dilapidated family members property. After years away, Gabriel returns to a home packed with thoughts and depression. Delving deep into kin secrets—a chilly father, a tortured mom, an insane grandmother—Gabriel additionally remembers his first encounters with love and loss. without delay a singular of a family members, of isolation, and of a blighted eire, Birchwood is a outstanding and intricate tale concerning the finish of innocence for one boy and his nation, informed within the brilliantly styled prose of 1 of our such a lot crucial writers.

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Sample text

Did he have the guts to attack the Godkin madness at its root, end the feud, bring the Lawlesses home, complete the cycle begun a hundred years before? I doubt it. Perhaps he married Mama because his mother, my Granny Godkin, was so violently set against the match, and Joe was never one to pass up a fight with that ancient harridan, the only one of us that he loved, I hope that is the word. She could smell in this affair, she declared, a low plot on the part of the Lawlesses to regain Birchwood by the only means left open to them, namely, the tyranny of the cunt and its corollary, the womb.

Left alone, I pulled pale stalks of grass from their sockets and crushed the soft flesh in my mouth. Timidly, almost unnoticed, there came breaking in upon me that music, palpable and tender, which a wood in summer makes, whose melody is always just beyond hearing, always enticing. Dreamily I wandered down through the trees, into the bluegreen gloom. Down there were flies, not the intricate translucent things which browsed among the birches, but vivid nightblue brutes with brittle bodies, swarming over the rot, and there were black birds too, under the bushes screaming.

When I released them from the steps their incredulous drunken leap from my palm made the summer airs over the garden seem suddenly lighter, gayer, and as delicately tinted as the skyblue silken dust they left smeared on my fingers. Not that I had any love for them, or even liking. I wanted to kill them, but I did not. Some days my teeth ached with the desire for wanton slaughter, but I would not allow myself the pleasure, treasuring my benificence, and knowing anyway that if the situation became desperate there was nothing to stop me taking a rolled-up newspaper into the wood one afternoon and bludgeoning to extinction a whole species of lepidoptera, small blues, while they frittered away the first glorious days of summer.

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