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The Treachery of Memories,
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This review is from: The Sense of an Ending (Hardcover)
You may be wondering, as many people do every year, is this year's Booker Prize winner really worth reading? Well this time round it is not difficult to answer in the affirmative. However, just how much you enjoy this book will, in large measure, depend on whther you like novels where although there is a clever and compelling plot, that plot does largely take second place to the authors meditations on ageing, the unreliabilty of memory and the devastating impact that seemingly throwaway comments can have on people's lives. There is no question that Barnes is a writer of great intelligence and style and if you are familiar with his other work you will find the trademark philosophical questioning alongside black, knowing irony. On the face of it, the story is straightforward enough concerning how the behaviour of a group of young friends has ramifications for them all that they could never have imagined, but this is really a framework for Barnes' real theme which is a profound and hugely important one-how the passage of time first dulls memory and then leads us into a process of forgetting and re-writing our history so that people and events which touched are lives are redefined until barely recognisable from their original selves. Everyone is guilty of this kind of sophistry and hence Barnes's reflections are touching and disturbing in equal measure. Did I really know her? Did I really know myself or only my own deluded picture of myself? Sometimes such introspective musings seem abstract or self indulgent, but Barnes is both down to earth and humourous, couching his themes within a gripping narrative with the result that this is a gripping and enormously thought-provoking novella which deserves the strongest recommendation.