In these seventeen essays (and one short story) the 2011 Man Booker Prize winner examines British, French and American writers who have meant most to him, as well as the cross-currents and overlappings of their different cultures. From the deceptiveness of Penelope Fitzgerald to the directness of Hemingway, from Kipling's view of France to the French view of Kipling, from the many translations of Madame Bovary to the fabulations of Ford Madox Ford, from the National Treasure Status of George Orwell to the despair of Michel Houellebecq, Julian Barnes considers what fiction is, and what it can do. As he writes in his preface, 'Novels tell us the most truth about life: what it is, how we live it, what it might be for, how we enjoy and value it, and how we lose it.'
When his Letters from London came out in 1995, the Financial Times called him 'our best essayist'. This wise and deft collection confirms that judgment.
So elegant is Barnes’ prose that it’s easy to overlook his comic talents...this is Barnes cementing his reputation as a lively, curious reader as well as one of Britain’s best living writers.
Engaging, eloquent, entertaining and erudite... There is a capacious generosity throughout this book, and I would defy anyone not to leave without feeling both better informed and better disposed... It is rare indeed for a collection of occasional pieces such as this to inspire feelings of profound thankfulness.
A truly wonderful collection.
The book relies on stylish intelligence and cool calm to accomplish its mastery… This is a coquettish book. Barnes flatters readers into feeling that they may be as shrewd, discriminating and attractive as he is.
A devastatingly brilliant critic.
No year is complete without a bit of reading reflection, and as we gaze at 2019's shelves, we're more than a bit pleased with the boldness and breadth of the last 12 months of VINTAGE books. From an insider's look at the realities of modern-day poverty to an acclaimed expose of the data bias towards men, and a long-awaited, Booker-winning dystopian smash hit, here are 10 of the biggest highlights.
Man Booker prize winner Julian Barnes' latest novel The Only Story is a poignant and tender portrayal of first love. Read on for an extract