A wonderful book. Tony, an older man, recently retired, reflects on his callow teenage years and the relationships he had with his best friends, and with his first girlfriend. More recent events make him think again about the nature of memory, and about the rolling changes of history. Their history teacher many years ago had asked them to consider, 'What is history?'. One of Tony's friends Adrian said that "History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation." This is the core around which the novel revolves. Or evolves. As Tony struggles to reconcile his life, his memories, he says "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."
The book is so thoughtful and insightful that one can't help but extrapolate and wonder how parts of Barnes himself and his famous friends, Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis, fit in. When one of the characters is described as having developed esophageal cancer after a life of hard drinking, I think surely that must be a gesture towards Hitchens.
This is a terrific book that will be even better with the re-read. I hope he will finally get his Booker with this one, the fourth of his novels to be nominated.
(PS so glad he did win!!!)