by Jason W., August 4, 2009 9:07 AM
Banville really is a writer closer to Nabakov and Joyce than most of his contemporaries. It's easy to see in this novel of obsession, which follows a former felon turned art historian who is asked to verify the authenticity of a stack of suspicious paintings. Things get complicated, and the narrator falls deep under the spell of a mysterious woman. The language is erotic and sensual even outside of the sex scenes. Various interludes, in the form of brief art reviews written by the narrator, offset the action, provide pacing, and eventually weave themselves into the plot. Stylistically, Athena is masterful, and the detective-novel genre gets a good workout in the hands of a writer able to make every line beautiful, and every word count.