The latest book of Julian Barnes, The Only Story, in which the main character Paul, looks back on his life and first love – the most important to him – and the impact that it had on his life.
The novel is constructed by three parts. In the first one, Paul (19) tells the story of the beginnig of his love entanglement with Susan (48), who is married and has two children – both older than Paul – in England, 1963. Narrated in the first person, it has, I believe, a honeymoon-phase-quality to it, encapsulating the best moments of their relationship.
The second part is narrated in both the first and second person, and deals with Susan’s alcoholism and depression. It also dwells with how the people in the suburban town they live in condemn them and their relationship. Slowly but surely, their connection starts to change inevitably.
The third part is narrated in the third person; we witness a total detachment from Paul, and his memories. We feel the same dispassion when it comes to his relationship, which had ended on a bad note and has affected him greatly. We see a little bit of how the breakup with Susan and the way he keeps reliving the memories they had shared have affected his future relationships.
The Only Story is both a simple but complex novel. It deals with the power one’s first love has and how it is capable of shaping their life. A story about a love that has always been doomed, about hope, societal views, shame and guilt. How we look back on memories, and select them.
I’ve found it a fascinating read. Julian Barnes’ writing is extraordinary obviously! I highly recommended it.
“Perhaps love could never be captured in a definition; it could only ever be captured in a story”
Reviewer: Marisa, from Lomas de Zamora’s store.
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