We read this one as part of the E17 Book Club – we had decided to read one of the shortlisted Booker titles, and chose this just a few days before it was announced as the winner.
For once, apart from one lovely book clubber, we were all pretty much in agreement on our evaluation of it.
Tony Webster is in his 50s/60s – a divorced father and seemingly happy enough with his life when un expected letter from a solicitor causes him to remember back to his youth. He was part of a close-knit group of friends who all seemed to vie for the attention of Adrain, the most enigmatic boy.
Tony remembers back to his school and Uni days and to Veronica, his first love. however, he soon realises that memories are funny old things, and what you remember isn’t necessarily exactly what happened – time can change memroies without you realising.
The whole idea that what you remember isn’t necessarily true was a fantastic one – and I found it quite exciting. However, I don’t feel that it was fully explored. Perhaps because this (rather over-priced) book was only 160 pages long!
There was so much missing that could have been delved into further. This was the first time I had read anything by Julian Barnes, and his writing was mesmerising – absolutely beautiful, without being overly-flowery…and I would’ve quite happily read something 2 or 3 times the length of this book. So I’m not sure why he didn’t spend longer on it – it just felt so half done!
The character-building was extremely good – they all felt very much like real people (rather impressive considering the length of the book), but then none of them were very likeable, and even worse, there were various points throughout the story where they seemed to act very out of character! That’s one of my pet hates – don’t build characters that I buy into, and then make them act in a way I can’t believe!
I was also very disappointed with the end (not just because it was so soon after the start!) as there seemed to be a very outdated, cheap shot used as a shock-factor. I don’t really want to go into it any more than that, as I have always tried to write my reviews in such a way that it doesn’t give away the story – but it was VERY disappointing, almost to the point that I was quite disgusted.
All in all, it left me feeling a little empty – although I didn’t like the book, I loved reading it – I loved Barnes’ writing, and the main premise of the story was a good one that was unexplored!