Banville is a superb writer, a Booker Prize winner. This book is a mystery, so the key elements are time (early 1950s) and place (Dublin and Northern Spain). Banville writes beautifully descriptive phrases; a character is described by “petulance was a pastime”. With such good writing, the plot exposition becomes subtle and effortless – very enjoyable.
Banville is a fine writer (Man Booker award for his previous novel, The Sea): his writing is elegant with words that sparkle (a dictionary is also useful). This latest novel is about the complex relationships between two couples. The main character, Oliver, is fascinating: annoyingly self-absorbed, a thief of small and large objects, and a coward. And he is a painter.