Drama · Fiction · Romance

The Blue Guitar by John Banville

‘Then the day came when I knew the day wouldn’t come, and I gave up waiting.’

What is it about?

The Blue Guitar is not, in fact, about a blue guitar. The title is a reference to the poem The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens, which in itself is a nice piece of writing well worth checking out. Oliver Orme, the novel’s unreliable narrator, is many things; a cheat, a childless father, a painter who no longer paints and, above all else, a thief. Only, he’s branched out from stealing his aunt’s flapper girl figurines and tubes of zinc white paint; now he’s stealing people – namely, his best friend’s wife, Polly. Although this is a somewhat static novel, a lot happens as we follow Oliver through his world that is so much like ours but a few degrees off; he starts off with a wife, a lover and a best friend. He ends up with a loveless marriage, a worryingly flatulent dog and a somewhat reformed character. It is not what he ends up with that matters; it is how he gets there.

 

Is it any good?

This is a book that is like an ocean. The reader can dip in and out of it, but never quite finds themselves drowning; it’s a book that is disconcerting, but in a comfortable sort of way; it’s a book like a duvet on a cold winter’s night. Whilst it was undeniably an enjoyable read, I did have trouble at times with motivating myself to pick up the book and start reading again, although once I started I found it hard to put down. Banville gives Oliver Orme a consistent narrative voice and one that we trust in its unavoidable but endearing dishonesty; Oliver is a bad person, definitely, but only in so much as everyone is. Banville’s prose reads like Romantic poetry, but I feel that sometimes it borders on pretentiousness, and quite a few times I had to go over sentences until I could force them into making sense. As mentioned in my synopsis, it is a static novel – the sort where everything that happens doesn’t happen in the narrative, which is of a more reflective nature. Whilst this is at times annoying – there were so many things I wanted to see first hand through Oliver’s eyes – it does overall work very well as a narrative technique as it gives the reader space to imagine the alluded to events for themselves; everyone will read this book differently and take different things away from it.

 

Rating: 7/10

How long did it take to read: nine days

For fans of: critical thinking, snuggling up with a hot chocolate, steam punk universes, bizarre characters, the Artful Dodger

This book tastes like: oatcakes

 

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