This is a book I’ve read before (more than once), which is something I’ve done with a few books by Julian Barnes. This is a short one – just ~150 pages – but it is as full and evocative as his other writings. The characters are real and relatable, and the situations at once ordinary and extraordinary. I enjoyed growing and learning with the main character (Tony), who’s inner world and world view, and the evolution of both, form the main story. The tale is not a happy one, but it is not overly-tragic either – just very true.
As Barnes has gotten older (and so have I) his stories have kept pace with the perspective of aging people in modern times. It’s easy to see some parallels between Tony’s experiences here – looking back at a period in his life 40 years previous, and reconciling his memories with the truth – and a Barnes novel from 25+ years ago (Talking It Over, for example), where the characters’ experiences as 30-somethings are confined to their perspective of life thus far: the perspective of age comes with both wisdom and lack of clarity, whereas examination of life in the moment comes with transparency and lack of wisdom (as we’ve yet to learn anything from those experiences).
“…how time first grounds us and then confounds us.”
“…when we are young and sensitive, we are also at our most hurtful…(later) when we are more armoured and have learnt how to bear hurt, we tread more carefully.”
Barnes touches here on this conundrum of aging, wisdom, clarity, and truth, and the terrific and terrible reckonings that can come with revisiting the past. “And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life.”
There is a film out now based on this book, which I’m looking forward to seeing. My re-reading of the book was mostly in preparation for seeing the film, but also simply because it is a favourite.
7. A book written by a male author.
9. A book that is (or is becoming) a film.
19. A book you can finish in a day. (I couldn’t but a faster reader likely could.)
One book that I’ve read previously.
This article delves into the fallibility of memory as portrayed in this story.