The Only Story by Julian Barnes
A novel

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The ending is quietly breathtaking, evidence of the subterranean magic that’s wrought by those seemingly austere sentences.
-Guardian

Synopsis

From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending, a novel about a young man on the cusp of adulthood and a woman who has long been there, a love story shot through with sheer beauty, profound sadness, and deep truth.

Most of us have only one story to tell. I don't mean that only one thing happens to us in our lives: there are countless events, which we turn into countless stories. But there's only one that matters, only one finally worth telling. This is mine.

One summer in the sixties, in a staid suburb south of London, Paul comes home from university, aged nineteen, and is urged by his mother to join the tennis club. In the mixed-doubles tournament he's partnered with Susan Macleod, a fine player who's forty-eight, confident, ironic, and married, with two nearly adult daughters. She is also a warm companion, their bond immediate. And they soon, inevitably, are lovers. Clinging to each other as though their lives depend on it, they then set up house in London to escape his parents and the abusive Mr. Mcleod.
     Decades later, Paul looks back at how they fell in love, how he freed Susan from a sterile marriage, and how--gradually, relentlessly--everything fell apart, and he found himself struggling to understand the intricacy and depth of the human heart. It's a piercing account of helpless devotion, and of how memory can confound us and fail us and surprise us (sometimes all at once), of how, as Paul puts it, "first love fixes a life forever."
 

About Julian Barnes

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Julian Barnes's honors include the Somerset Maugham Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2004 he was named Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. He lives in London. www.julianbarnes.com
 
Published April 17, 2018 by Knopf. 272 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Only Story
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Alex Preston on Feb 04 2018

The ending is quietly breathtaking, evidence of the subterranean magic that’s wrought by those seemingly austere sentences.

Read Full Review of The Only Story: A novel | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Kate Clanchy on Jan 26 2018

All this means that the exquisite moments – and there are many – in The Only Story come from its psychological acuity, especially about how we remember.

Read Full Review of The Only Story: A novel | See more reviews from Guardian

The Economist

Above average
on Feb 01 2018

Some might view this as an imaginative failure on the novelist’s part, particularly in the era of #MeToo. But, as the tale spools out, the effect is a vivid and awful dramatisation of the narcissism of obsessive love.

Read Full Review of The Only Story: A novel | See more reviews from The Economist

Reader Rating for The Only Story
75%

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