In this inventive and unconventional narrative, Barnes turns the old fiction-writing maxim, "Don't tell about something, recreate it," on its head, choosing not to recreate anything at all. Instead, his three main characters address the reader in soliloquies, each telling his version of events that have happened in the past and leaving it up to the reader to decide what really happened.
Stuart, stodgy and predictable, was briefly married to Gillian before dashing Oliver stole her away. Ten years have passed, Stuart has remarried, divorced, become financially successful in the U.S., and returned to England. Oliver and Gillian are still married, the parents of two daughters. As their lives once again intertwine, many of the old tensions revive, along with some new tensions, the result of the characters' changes in ten years.
Barnes's characters are vivid, and their speeches to the audience are both dramatic and real. One can easily see how the various characters would interpret events differently, and that aspect of the book is fun to read. There are numerous disadvantages to Barnes's approach, however. The characters are independent of the reader, isolated not only from the reader but from each other, and they feel like actors on a stage who have not invited anyone in to share their lives. The reader's role becomes that of an observer or a judge, deciding not only what happened but what will happen in the future. Readers looking for an unusual narrative will find this book fascinating and carefully constructed, though perhaps a bit slow. Mary Whipple