Time Pieces : A Dublin Memoir
by John Banville

Overview - From the internationally acclaimed and Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea and the Benjamin Black mysteries--a vividly evocative memoir that unfolds around the author's recollections, experience, and imaginings of Dublin.  Read more...

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More About Time Pieces by John Banville
From the internationally acclaimed and Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea and the Benjamin Black mysteries--a vividly evocative memoir that unfolds around the author's recollections, experience, and imaginings of Dublin.

As much about the life of the city as it is about a life lived, sometimes, in the city, John Banville's "quasi-memoir" is as layered, emotionally rich, witty, and unexpected as any of his novels. Born and bred in a small town a train ride away from Dublin, Banville saw the city as a place of enchantment when he was a child, a birthday treat, the place where his beloved, eccentric aunt lived. And though, when he came of age and took up residence there, and the city became a frequent backdrop for his dissatisfactions (not playing an identifiable role in his work until the Quirke mystery series, penned as Benjamin Black), it remained in some part of his memory as fascinating as it had been to his seven-year-old self. And as he guides us around the city, delighting in its cultural, architectural, political, and social history, he interweaves the memories that are attached to particular places and moments. The result is both a wonderfully idiosyncratic tour of Dublin, and a tender yet powerful ode to a formative time and place for the artist as a young man.

  • ISBN-13: 9781524732837
  • ISBN-10: 1524732834
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publish Date: February 2018
  • Page Count: 224
  • Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Literary Figures
Books > History > Europe - Great Britain - General
Books > Photography > Subjects & Themes - Street Photography

BookPage Reviews

Walking with the past

Two recent memoirs by Irish writers explore the haunting presence of the past in Irish lives and communities. Although James Joyce’s literary avatar Stephen Dedalus declared history “a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,” the Irish are known for their infatuation with the past.

In My Father’s Wake, journalist Kevin Toolis travels home to a remote island off the coast of Ireland to lay his father (and his personal demons) to rest. The subtitle of Toolis’ memoir—“How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love and Die”—is a bit of a red herring, as this is not exactly a guide to coping with death. Instead, Toolis has written an exceptionally personal and moving story of his own encounters with death, from his brush with tuberculosis as a child to his beloved older brother Bernard’s untimely passing from leukemia. Despite donating bone marrow, Toolis is unable to save his brother, and Bernard’s death in a hospital is hygienically swift.

Traumatized by the experience, Toolis subsequently becomes a “death hunter” journalist, interviewing bereaved family members in global war zones. Toolis explores the ways in which the “Western Death Machine” has alienated us from our ancestral rituals of death and dying, rituals that persist in rural West Ireland. When Toolis’ own father, Sonny, dies in the tiny island village of Dookinella, the old rituals of keening and waking the dead prove the balm that he has been searching for. Sonny dies at home, seen over by a bean chabrach, or death midwife, and keened over by bean chaointe, or wailing woman. The entire village gathers at Sonny’s wake, watching over his passage from life to death. “A wake is the best guide to life you’ll ever have,” Toolis writes, encouraging his readers to learn how to live by accepting the inevitability of death.

Like Toolis, who finds solace in the rituals of the past, Booker Prize-winning author John Banville is similarly preoccupied with the weight of the past on the present in his new memoir, Time Pieces. But while Toolis returns to the ancient rituals of rural Ireland, Banville explores the great Irish city of Dublin, using it as a site for excavating and contemplating history and its movement. “When does the past become the past?” septuagenarian Banville asks while wandering the city, reflecting on his life.

Personal and national history intermingle in Banville’s genial ramblings around Dublin as he considers his youth and coming-of-age in Dublin’s Baggotonia neighborhood or discovers granite fragments of Nelson’s Pillar (blown up by the IRA in 1966) in the Pearse Street Public Library. Accentuated by Paul Joyce’s moody black-and-white photographs, Time Pieces has the feel of a valediction and farewell by a writer looking back on his passage through a particularly Irish time and place.


This article was originally published in the March 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

BAM Customer Reviews