The Newton Letter

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


  • 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.

John Banville, born William John Banville, who sometimes writes as Benjamin Black, is an Irish novelist, adapter of dramas, and screenwriter.  Recognised for his precise, cold, forensic prose style, Nabokovian inventiveness, and for the dark humour of his generally arch narrators, Banville is considered to be “one of the most imaginative literary novelists writing in the English language today.” He has been described as “the heir to Proust, via Nabokov.”