John Banville: Birchwood (3150 words)

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At first glance, John Banville’s second novel Birchwood (1973) appears to belong to the “Big House” subgenre of the novel, as the background to the narrative is the downfall of an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family. The destruction of the Godkin family is due to inbreeding, madness, and the resistance of Irish nationalist rebels. The central figure of the novel is Gabriel Godkin, who is an only child and heir to the Birchwood estate. A child marked by fate, Gabriel was born in the house as a circus was setting up on the lawns outside. Despite being an odd, detached figure, he is a compelling and contemplative narrator. The plot follows the events of Gabriel’s search for his twin sister Rose, who he is tricked into believing e…

Boyle, Kevin. "Birchwood". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 22 October 2014
[, accessed 17 October 2017.]

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