This was a story that reflected on the power of first love and its everlasting effect and presence it has on someone’s life, long after it has faded away; the way it impacts our views on relationships, happiness and trust. It spoke about the complexity of love but also about the nature of memory.
“Perhaps love could never be captured in a definition; it could only ever be captured in a story.”
The shifts in narration – from first to second and ultimately to third were used in a way to mirror the different stages of the relationship between Paul and Susan, depicting distance as time progressed. The narration would often go off on small unclear tangents – however, this technique gave it more of a conversional tone rather than feeling like you were reading a book.
“Most of us have only one story to tell. I don’t mean that only one thing happens to us in our lives: there are countless events, which we turn into countless stories. But there’s only one that matters, only one finally worth telling.”
The whole narration had been carefully crafted, providing some beautiful quotes, thought provoking musings with an undercurrent of emotion. There is absolutely no shadow of a doubt that Barnes is an incredibly skilful writer who is deft in his use of and command over language.
The plot plodded along at an excruciating pace, taking unnecessary roundabout detours along the way – it was drawn out to say the least. The characters were kept at a distance, especially Paul; his personality never came through despite being the protagonist. Character development was partly visible, although mostly hinted at by Paul’s own change in thoughts and perspective. Susan’s development seemed a little implausible (or perhaps it was never properly explained).
“Things, once gone, can’t be put back; he knew that now. A punch, once delivered, can’t be withdrawn. Words, once spoken, can’t be unsaid. We may go on as if nothing has been lost, nothing done, nothing said; we may claim to forget it all; but our innermost core doesn’t forget, because we have been changed forever.”
It was not made clear what the attraction was for Paul and Susan to embark on their relationship. It all seemed rather sudden and in a way rather bland – there was no initial passion or a sense of real intimacy.
In a nutshell, whilst the writing was exceptional, the plot was very much lacking – it meandered way too much and often lost complete focus. This was certainly a distinctive feature, albeit not a positive one. I was somewhat disappointed given the hype that seems to accompany any one of Barnes’ books (plus this was also my first Barnes book so the expectation was rather high).
Until next time,
P.S. As I get older and remember all the people I lost along the way, I think to myself… maybe a career as a tour guide was not the right choice 😋