I’ve never read Julian Barnes before, so I picked up his book with some trepidation, for I was just not in the mood for dense reading. However, the book surprised me. It started off lightly enough, and I couldn’t help nodding in agreement to several lines, and laughing out loud at others.
In a sense, I guess I am reading the book at the appropriate time. I am at a stage where I am beginning to get a sense of the end of my life, so to speak. My half-century on this earth may yet be a glimmer on the horizon, but there is a sense of calm predictability that rules right now. To that extent, I can so identify with the narrator Tony, who navigates life with caution and tries his best not to get hurt or hurt anyone. I can completely identify with the realization and that mild sense of disappointment that life is not like literature, that the highs and lows, the changes and growth, the passions and emotions, are all in more pastel shades in real life than the lurid and neon lights that dazzle in novels. I can identify too with the several contemplations on life, on what it means or does not mean, and on memories — oh those memories! — that are as deceptive sometimes as mirages in the desert.
The book resonated with me in so many ways that somehow, I felt let-down and cheated by the ending. It felt contrived, like a deliberate twist inserted just because, and I felt quite disappointed instead of going Wow! That was a pity, considering I loved the novel otherwise.
However, I am quite willing to forgive the ending because the book is such a beauty to read, and has such a way of saying the wisest things in the lightest manner possible. I was sad when it ended. It felt like a friend I made on a journey, a friend who understood, and now we were parting ways.
All in all, it was worth reading and I’m glad I picked it up after all.