Star rating – 9/10
Memory is a funny thing, we can choose to remember some things and forget others, and then long forgotten details about our past can suddenly come back to haunt us. Tricks of memory, and how we rewrite our personal histories to suit our current purpose, is the subject of the brilliant new novel by Julian Barnes.
In this beautifully written and absolutely compelling story, Tony Webster is our narrator. He recalls with riveting detail his school days in the 60’s when his friendship trio was enlarged to include the sparklingly intelligent and mesmerising philosopher, new boy Adrian. Adrian beguiles the masters with his sharp observations, and bewitches his new friends. At university Tony soon acquires and loses a girlfriend, Veronica, who seems to be out of his league in every single way.
It is these formative years and these adolescent relationships that come to dominate Tony’s life in later years. Barnes is a compelling story teller, and his descriptions of everyday ordinariness are irresistible. This book has some cruel twists of fate, the clues to which were really there all along. If only the reader had more than the unreliable reminiscences of Tony to guide them, the twists may not have been so shocking. But that is the beauty of this book. I enjoyed every minute of reading it and felt beret when it was over.