The Blue Guitar by John Banville
Knopf Doubleday: 9/15/15
eBook review copy; 272 pages
The Blue Guitar by John Banville is a recommended
novel about petty thief, former painter, and aging lothario Oliver
Olly is having a mid-life crisis. In The Blue Guitar he is sharing his thoughts and
observations with us. As a narrator Olly
is equal parts pretentious and self-effacing. As a man he is nearly
fifty, short, stout, and married. He was a painter of some renown at
one time but no longer paints, having given it up for existential
reasons. He is also a thief. He lets us know right away that this is
so and tells us: "The objects, the artefacts, that I purloin - there
is a nice word, prim and pursed - are of scant value for the most
part. Oftentimes their owners don’t even miss them." Olly has never
Now Olly is stealing Polly, the wife of his friend Marcus. He
comments, "Believe me, when it comes to first times, stealing and
love have a lot in common." When their affair is discovered, Olly
runs away to his family home to hide, although the fact that he
chose to go there was really never a secret since it is the first
place both Polly and his wife look. Olly truly is a man filled with
regret who wants to be rescued from himself.
Olly is an unlikeable and unreliable narrator, but Banville does
such an excellent job describing scenes, creating this farcical
character Oliver Otway Orme (O.O.O.) that you will follow all of
Olly's narcissistic prose and catch the humor embedded in the
descriptions and situations. The novel is set in the Victorian Era
and the language of the book reflects this.
Banville is an excellent, accomplished writer, which is what saves The
Blue Guitar. His vocabulary, descriptions, and observations
are insightful and intelligent. The plot is very simple, though, so
the majority of the book is Olly's ruminating. The plot in the first
part is especially slowed paced.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.