by Russell Banks

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LoveReading Expert Review of Foregone

Betrayal, desertion, and the confessional memories of a film-maker during an end-of-life confession - this smart and seductively structured novel is a thought-provoking page-turner.

It’s little wonder that Russell Banks has won major awards for his subtle, seductive novels, and Foregone - the author’s first new novel for a decade - also deserves a place among prize-winners. It features famous left-leaning Canadian American documentary filmmaker, Leonard Fife. He’s in his late-seventies and dying of cancer, with a live-in Haitian nurse and attentive wife. The book opens with Fife wondering why he’s agreed to be filmed for a final interview to discuss his life and work. His nurse reminds him it’s “because he’s famous for something to do with cinema, and famous people are required to make interviews”. In the ensuing interview, after the irritation of the production team setting-up (a team led by his former star-pupil), Fife makes a long, dark, unexpected confession, with the plot cleverly switching camera angles from Fife to those who are filming him - a smart device, effectively realised. 

Taking in the history of US draft evaders who fled to Canada to escape serving in Vietnam (of which Fife was one of sixty-thousand), and written entirely in the present tense, Banks’s style is haunting, meditative and gripping, with its protagonist’s personal revelations striking compelling rhythmic, resonant beats.

Joanne Owen

Foregone Synopsis

At the center of Foregone is famed Canadian American leftist documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife, one of sixty thousand draft evaders and deserters who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam. Fife, now in his late seventies, is dying of cancer in Montreal and has agreed to a final interview in which he is determined to bare all his secrets at last, to demythologize his mythologized life. The interview is filmed by his acolyte and ex-star student, Malcolm MacLeod, in the presence of Fife's wife and alongside Malcolm's producer, cinematographer, and sound technician, all of whom have long admired Fife but who must now absorb the meaning of his astonishing, dark confession.

Imaginatively structured around Fife's secret memories and alternating between the experiences of the characters who are filming his confession, the novel challenges our assumptions and understanding about a significant lost chapter in American history and the nature of memory itself. Russell Banks gives us a daring and resonant work about the scope of one man's mysterious life, revealed through the fragments of his recovered past.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9780857304599
Publication date: 22nd June 2021
Author: Russell Banks
Publisher: No Exit
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 320 pages
Collections: 50+ Beautifully Written Books, Summer Is Here - Feast Your Eyes on LoveReading's Ever-growing List of Summer Reading Recommendations,
Primary Genre Modern and Contemporary Fiction
Other Genres:
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What To Read After Foregone

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The Transparency of Time
Perfect Ten

Russell Banks Press Reviews

'As always, Banks's prose has remarkable force to it... there is such brio in the writing... that we follow Fife into the depths. The book's real theme is the curse of being convinced that one is unlovable. And who among us hasn't suffered that conviction to one degree or another?' - New York Times Book Review

'Foregone is a subtle meditation on a life composed of half-forgotten impulses and their endless consequences, misapprehensions of others that are accepted and exploited almost passively, a minor heroism that is only enhanced by demurral. In the rages of a sick old man profound questions arise-what is a life? A self? And what is lost when truth destroys the fabrications that sustain other lives?' - Marilynne Robinson

'During a career stretching almost half a century, Russell Banks has published an extraordinary collection of brave, morally imperative novels. The same marrow-delving impulse runs through them all... He traces the forces that influence whole societies as deftly as he explores the impulses that drive ordinary people...a remarkably fluid use of prose to represent the experience of delirium while wrestling to the final moments with the challenge of absolution... in this complex and powerful novel, we come face to face with the excruciating allure of redemption' - Washington Post

'Russell Banks is, word for word, idea for idea, one of the great American novelists' - Colum McCann

'Russell Banks, as cinematographer, is known to move in close. Foregone focuses his sharp eye on the feints and fictions amid life's


as he reveals his fascinatingly fallible character, Fife, whose personal life has been contextualized by history. As we zig-zag through the character's past and present, it becomes apparent that the writer is simultaneously, and subtly, demonstrating the act of writing fiction' - Ann Beattie

'Vibrant new novel by a grand man of American letters... Banks' crystalline storytelling is both one man's deathbed quest to grasp his own life and a pure pleasure to read' - Oprah Mag 'The most anticipated books of 2021'

'A powerful novel' - Boston Globe

'Banks, a conduit for the confounded and the unlucky, a writer acutely attuned to place and ambiance, is at his most magnetic and provocative in this portrait of a celebrated documentary filmmaker on the brink of death... Masterful' - Booklist (starred review)

'Strikingly effective... Banks explores aging, memory, and reputation in thoughtful and touching ways... A challenging, risk-taking work marked by a wry and compassionate intelligence.' - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

'The mixture of bravado and vulnerability is characteristic of Mr. Banks's impressive body of work, whose range has been underappreciated' - Wall Street Journal

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780857304599
Publication date: 22/06/2021
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780857304605
Publication date: 22/06/2021
Format: Ebook

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About Russell Banks

Russell Banks is the critically acclaimed author of Cloudsplitter, The Sweet Hereafter (the film by Atom Egoyan won the Grand Prix and International Critics Prize at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival), Rule of the Bone and Continental Drift, amongst others.   A winner of numerous fellowships and prizes, he writes regularly for Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, and Harper’s. Russell Banks currently lives in upstate New York.Photograph © Emma Dodge Hanson

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