Winner of the Man Booker prize in 2011, this deceptively small novel is really rather large in impact. Although it is quite readable in a casual style, the themes do build in intensity and at the end it actually begs to be reread. Barnes is a skillful writer, totally deserving of the Booker. Beautifully written and compelling, it’s quite possible to finish it in one or two sittings.
The story is about a man with a mutable past. The book’s first section is about the main character and his friends when they were at school. The second half of the book is much later when Tony is middle aged and he looks back to try to make sense of his life. His memories of events differ from others who were also there. In many ways it is a meditation on the uncertainty of memory as we age. How reliable are our memories? Do we reconstruct the past to suit the needs of the present? Is our memory selective? A lawyer’s letter and an unusual bequest become the catalyst for Tony to investigate and seek the truth.
If you read this book and don’t quite get the surprise ending, you will not be alone. Some members of our book club didn’t get it either, including myself. It may be necessary to read the ending a couple of times but no matter, it is a short book and if you need help, I’m happy to fill you in. 🙂
Here’s an interesting little youtube on how the cover for the book was designed.