A while ago I rather begrudgingly downloaded ‘The Sense of an Ending’. I didn’t know what it was about but it kept coming up as a recommended read. It was also on special. And I liked the title. I thought I’d give it a start and prove to myself that Barnes really wasn’t my sort of writer.
Confession: for some reason I now can’t trace the origin of, I had thought that Julian Barnes was a similar writer to Nick Hornby. (Living in Jen-land can have far worse results, like walking into a street sign a few weeks ago.)
Before I go any further, I am not in anyway criticising Nick Hornby. I’ve read a couple of his books and think he serves readers great stories that should be enjoyed. It’s just not the sort of thing I usually read. In fact ‘About A Boy’ is probably a rare example where I prefer the movie to the book. But I am a Toni Collette fan.
Anyway, back to my real point.
So ‘The Sense of an Ending’ was a double hit victory for me – not only a brilliant read, it completely exceeded my expectations.
I read ‘Levels of Life’ as soon it was released, this time knowing loosely what the book was about and of course expecting profoundly moving and artful prose. In an indulgent sitting of many cups of herbal tea, I relished the beautiful command of language, carefully balanced tone for handling difficult subjects honestly, and the skill to link stories to show the commonalities of love, and loss. This author’s place was firm on my list.
And then Mr Barnes surprised me again.
Yesterday morning, moving my wingback chair every half an hour or so to stay in the novelty of sunshine, I was laughing out loud reading ‘Pulse.’ The dinner parties at Joanna and Phil’s place are hilarious and awkward. These stories are mostly dialogue, free of any attribution. Underlying the old friends’ conversations – which cover Reagan, global warming, plastic testicles, marmalade, intromission, UK joining the Euro…to name a sample – are thoughts on relationships, between couples and friends, and getting older (not necessarily gracefully).
I wasn’t expecting to be laughing.
I see there are few longer stories later in the collection and wonder if I’m in for another surprising turn.
I'm actually quite glad that I'd confused Barnes and Hornby, though I'm not sure it's a common mistake, or necessarily one either of them would be amenable to.
I wonder if anyone else has had a similar mistaken author identity with such wonderful results?