This is the second book I’ve read by Julian Barnes (the first being Flaubert’s Parrot). It was actually a birthday present from two good friends, received, due to schedules and a variety of circumstance, not long before my next birthday.
But, having already crossed forty and writing this just before leaving forty and entering my ‘forties,’ it’s an appropriate book. The narrator is in his sixties, but the idea of looking back and knowing that one’s history and memories could all be wrong.
An ordinary kind of guy, who receives an odd bequest from an ex-girlfriend’s mother: five hundred pounds and the diary of a schoolboy who committed suicide, but who had also dated said ex-girlfriend just before said suicide.
It’s all complicated and our more or less unexceptional narrator is poorly equipped to understand, but it turns out that he had written a vicious letter to the couple that he had totally forgotten about – it had been erased from his own understanding of his own history.
His dead friend, had, at some point, had an affair with the ex’s mother and there was a child with developmental disabilities. Understandably, the ex (I should just name her: Veronica) felt devastated, ruined.
Part of her anger fixated on the narrator. Not fair, of course, and I read some reviews that felt Veronica was not credible, but I didn’t. I can understand anger and I can understand that sometimes you need to be angry at something or someone. In this case, it was her ex, who wrote that note. Easier, maybe, then hating the dead man, the dead mother, or the disabled brother.
So, I liked this book.