This is a superbly crafted historical novel, and like any Banville work, displays an utter mastery of English poetic prose. I did think, however, the first half almost entirely devoid of any science, which is astounding considering that half describes how Copernicus comes to craft his theory about the earth orbiting the sun. Banville paints a finely crafted fictional picture of Copernicus's mind from childhood to his death as an old man, and the book is more concerned with his influences and the competing philosophical ideas than the mathematical details of the actual theory, that is, the philosophy of science rather than the science itself.
The last third of the novel was for me the best part. He introduces a wonderful character, Rheticus, that is tasked to help Copernicus put down his theory for publication. Banville is a fine observer of the human psyche and this is plainly evident in this latter part of the novel. There are twists in the tale, and in usual Banville style, they are twists of the tortured psychological variety. The deathbed scene that closes the book is masterful.
I suspect Banville is incapable of writing something that is not significant. He is relentlessly focused on the inner life and it is always rather dark. I doubt that he has ever written a cheerful work. So if you do not like this book then you will probably not like any of his others. But if you have liked one of his (The Sea is currently my favourite), and can handle the general tragedy of the mind that Banville so finely delineates, then you are sure to enjoy this one, too....Continua