Want to write about this book asap because, ironically, I know I’ll forget about it very shortly. A book about memory and its unreliability and it’ll soon be nothing but a couple of fleeting impressions and images. It was that kind of book for me.
Overall it’s an easy and ok read, but the Booker Prize did its work and I started out with very high hopes.
The story is about Tony, who takes us on a trip down the memory lane of his youth, his group of four best friends and his first girlfriend. The problem is that neither Tony or any of the other characters are terribly appealing. There’s nothing wrong with flawed characters, unless their main flaw is their boringness.
I found Tony in particular a pretty uninteresting person (and the important question is always: did the author want to make him that way?).
He always seems to have a very mild and detached approach to everything. A detachment that at points seems self-serving, which is confirmed by his sad current life: a failed marriage, a distant relationship with his daughter, a complete lack of friends. He goes out of his way to convince us and himself that he’s actually a caring and considerate person and bends his memory to show it. This careful re-arrangement of memories was probably the best part of the book. Made me think how we all do it, even if just for the sake of self-presentation.
I also had high hopes for the ending of the book, and not only because of the title. I knew from other reviews I could expect a big revelation, but after closing the last page I had to go online just to confirm that I really got it and if that was really all there was to get. Unfortunately, it was. I’m not even complaining about the loose ends (“blood money“?), but the resolution felt a bit (dare I say it of Julian Barnes and a Booker Prize?) unsubtle. And more so because it’s presented as a Dramatic Mystery Resolution.
Also, for those of you who’ve read the book, was I the only one who thought this was a Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus story? Every single woman in it is incomprehensible and/or unbalanced, but again I can’t tell if it’s because we see them thought Tony’s eyes or if Barnes meant them to be like this.
I’m usually a big fan of Julian Barnes, but this one I’ll have to archive in the ok-but-don’t-get-the-fuss shelf.
Other thoughts: Asylum, Pages Turned, So Many Books, The Literary Stew, Tales from the Reading Room, Shelf Life, Aquatique, Shelf Love, Stuck in a Book, nomadreader, Always Cooking Up Something, She is Too Fond of Books, Book Atlas (yours?)