I’m really uncertain how to review this book without huge spoilers about its content being scattered throughout my notes, and how on earth do you have any impact on someone else’s desire to read the book when it won the Man Booker prize for fiction in 2011?
It’s not a long book, just 162 pages, but every page an absolute joy. A novella written in the first person by the central character, Tony Webster. Tony is now retired and reflecting on his life, especially school then university in the 60s in England, girl friends, marriage, divorce. Then he gets a solicitor’s letter advising him of a bequest in a will and everything changes.
The schoolboy memories are mostly about final years at secondary school, three close pals who are joined by a fourth, more intelligent, more confident and more serious minded than themselves. A different friend who commits suicide, the never ending quest for girlfriends generally or sex specifically. Then separating and going to university, Tony to Bristol and the serious and confident Adrian to Cambridge. At Bristol Tony gets his first really serious girlfriend, gets invited to meet her family, and spends a strange weekend with her parents and brother. Then she dumps him and starts going out with …… the serious Adrian at Cambridge. And life just gets more and more complicated, especially when, in real time, Tony gets a solicitors letter……. I’ll shut up!
The style of writing in this book makes for very easy reading, unlike an earlier work by Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot! Each page held my attention without wanting to skip ahead to find out what happened next, every sentence and paragraph revealed a little something about Tony, his life, and those times from the 1960s and beyond. If you’re my age, or similar, and went to school during part of the 60s I’ll wager you’ll find quite a bit of yourself in this book, whatever your gender! And, it’s so good they made a movie of it too! But … this book and its title has had a significant effect ….