A historian, trying to finish a long-overdue book on Isaac Newton, rent a cottage not far by train from Dublin for the summer. All he need, he thinks, is a few weeks of concentrated work. Why, he must unravel, did Newton break down in 1693? What possessed him to write that strange letter to his friend John Locke? But in the long seeping summer days, old sloth and present reality take over.
His cottage sits in the large disheveled nursery garden of Fern House, and in due course he’s obsessed by those who live there and who infest his days and nights: stranded Charlotte; Ottilie, the mysterious child; and Edward Lawless, drunk and doomed. He believes at last he’s deciphered the web of their ways, but finds that he’s quite wrong. And therein, in these versions of one long summer’s pastoral, lies the magic of this elegant short novel.
Praise for The Newton Letter
Banville uses the implication of the science he describes to turn biography back on itself. . . his most impressive work to date.
—The New York Times
BOOK GROUP RESOURCES
- Read an interview with John Banville from an online blog: The Elegant Variation.
- Listen to an interview in which John Banville discusses other Irish writers.
- Read a review in History Today.