The story of a man coming to terms with the mutable past, Julian Barnes's new novel is laced with his trademark precision, dexterity and insight. It is the work of one of the world's most distinguished writers. Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and... read more
The first third of the book serves as a looking back upon high school and university years for the main character, Tony. We meet his friends, and are introduced, importantly, to Adrian. Adrian is impossibly intelligent, rational, and philosophical. At the end of high school the brotherhood... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The first third of the book serves as a looking back upon high school and university years for the main character, Tony. We meet his friends, and are introduced, importantly, to Adrian. Adrian is impossibly intelligent, rational, and philosophical. At the end of high school the brotherhood separate, only occasionally getting back into contact. Tony meets his first girlfriend: Veronica. Veronica is mysterious and manipulative, refusing to take Tony's virginity until after they'e broken up. During this time Tony visits Veronica's family, who are equally as odd and hostile. The exception is Veronica's mother, whose subtle niceties cause Tony consternation.
It's only a short time after the relationship ends that Tony receives a letter from Adrian, asking for his permission to date Veronica. Tony fires back a fierce letter, and doesn't hear from them for some time. It's not until he returns home on a unviersity holiday that he finds out Adrian has killed himself. He leaves a letter, explaining in complete, rational detail why he has chosen death as a logical action.
Skipping forward many years to the now retired Tony, whose interest with his teenage years is sparked again when he receives a letter from his lawyer. Veronica's mother has died, and left 'documents' to Tony in her will. Veronica refuses to let the document's go, however, and Tony slowly tries to unravel the infuriating mystery.
“We live in time-it holds us and moulds us- but I've never felt I understood it very well. And I'm not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time's malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing- until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.”
“Perhaps I feel just safer with the history that has been more or less agreed upon”Anthony Webster
“Well, in one sense, I can’t know what is that I don’t know. That’s philosophically self evident”Adrian Finn
“An enigma is a puzzle you want to solve. I didn’t even want to solve Veronica”Anthony Webster
“If I can’t be sure of the actual events any more, I can at least be sure of the impressions those facts left. That’s the best I can manage”Anthony Webster
“You still don’t get it. You never did it and you never will”Veronica Ford
“I am peacable”Anthony Webster
“Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn't all it's cracked up to be.”Anthony Webster
“"Every day is Sunday" punk song and also what Tony finds to be an apt description for much of life.”
“There was nothing to distract us from our human and filial duty which was to study, pass exams, use those qualifications to find a job, and then put together a way of life unthreateningly fuller than that of our parents,. who would approve, whilst privately comparing it to their own earlier lives, which had been simpler and therefore superior. None of this, of course, was ever stated: the genteel social Darwinism of the English middle classes always remained implicit.”
“..sometimes this meant her body would be as tightly guarded as a fisheries exclusion zone.”
“Some Englishman once said that marriage is a long dull meal with the pudding served first.”
“..it's that same paradox again: the history that happens underneath our noses ought to be the clearest, and yet it's the most deliquescent.”
“..a graph of pure intelligence.. ..my guess is that it would show we most of us peak between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five.”
“ ‘History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.’ ”Highlighted by 609 Kindle customers
“History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”Highlighted by 493 Kindle customers
Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.Highlighted by 470 Kindle customers
History isn’t the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated.Highlighted by 449 Kindle customers
But time … how time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them. Time … give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical.Highlighted by 434 Kindle customers
It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.Highlighted by 432 Kindle customers
And then there is the question, on which so much depends, of how we react to the damage: whether we admit it or repress it, and how this affects our dealings with others. Some admit the damage, and try to mitigate it; some spend their lives trying to help others who are damaged; and then there are those whose main concern is to avoid further damage to themselves, at whatever cost. And those are the ones who are ruthless, and the ones to be careful of.Highlighted by 411 Kindle customers
How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? 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. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.Highlighted by 287 Kindle customers
Some Englishman once said that marriage is a long dull meal with the pudding served first.Highlighted by 273 Kindle customers
Perhaps I just feel safer with the history that’s been more or less agreed upon. Or perhaps it’s that same paradox again: the history that happens underneath our noses ought to be the clearest, and yet it’s the most deliquescent.Highlighted by 152 Kindle customers
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