There has been much debate as per normal as to whether Barnes deserved to win the Booker. Much of it has centred around the fact that one of the judges Stella Rimmington praised it as being “very readable” Was this a mortal sin? For some it certainly was, they argued that being readable was not a criteria and it should be about creative skill and now there is talk of creating a new prize for writing. Anyway for me the issue is whether he really deserved the prize or he was simply given it because he had been nominated three times previously.
The book like ‘Wuthering Heights’ or the Sarah Waters ‘The Little Stranger‘ has an unreliable narrator. Tony receives a bequest in the will of his ex-girlfriend Veronica’s mother and this leads him to start thinking about Veronica, and his school friend Adrian who committed suicide. Tony is eventually forced to confront his role in this affair and to question his culpability.
The novel deals with the issue of our memories and how reliable they are. It also makes frequent links to the nature of history and whether as Tony argues it is simply written not by the victors as but is “simply the memories of the survivors”. Adrian’s view however is that it is “simply written at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation”. As a history teacher I found these questions very interesting and it led me to question about my own memories of past relationships and their accuracy.
Someone at our book club raised the question as to who was the father of Adrian. Now I thought this was straight forward but it led to a bit of debate, so if anyone reads this let me know what you think.
According to the Man Booker website this is “a truly wonderful novel that will have the reader immersed in the story from the very first page”. Now I didn’t experience this until about 15 pages, although admittedly the book is very short at only 150 pages. A problem with the novel is that despite knowing Tony’s memories are flawed Veronica still seems hideous.
Now the book was an interesting read, and at book club I did recognise it is at first deceptively simple but it becomes one of those stories that makes you think. I have always found Barnes to be a bit of a mixed bag; I loved ‘Arthur and George‘ but some of his others such as ‘A History of the World in 10½ chapters I found less interesting. Overall for me an interesting and short read but not really a Booker winner.
Click here for a very funny digested read of the novel at the guardian
Read this for details of the Booker controversy http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/oct/18/booker-prize-julian-barnes-wins