“Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.”
‘The Only Story’ tells the profound, yet moving love story of 19-year-old Paul, and 48-year-old Susan, a married, mother of two and the complex and intense suffering that follows.
As Paul reminisces on his first love, we are taken through different perspectives as the fragile story begins to unfold.
Author, Julian Barnes’ writes in such a way that although tragic and helplessly sad, is also extremely touching and nostalgic.
“Perhaps love could never be captured in a definition; it could only ever be captured in a story.”
At VA, we all thought the characters were not given enough development in order to really unpick them as individuals.
Paul and Susan’s relationship was not given much expansion, leaving the jump from a sordid affair into a frontal relationship, a difficult one to digest. We wanted to know more and even though the story is told through Paul’s eyes it didn’t feel enough.
“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.”
Reoccurring comments have been the overwhelming nature of Barnes’ writing. Perhaps a little too stream of consciousness heavy in places, leaving some pages needing to be re-read for a full understanding.
The book has been split into three parts, all told from different ‘perspectives’ – an interesting grammatical switch – but all whilst being told by Paul in a sense, which perhaps adds to the idea of the narrator becoming increasingly disassociated from his own ‘only’ story.
“You realise how sympathy and antagonism can coexist. You are discovering how many seemingly incompatible emotions can thrive, side by side, in the same human heart.”
As the final paragraph ends, we were left feeling slightly short changed and with a feeling of emptiness, perhaps the main intention of Barnes.
Despite some beautiful and evocative passages of text, ‘The Only Story’ is a good read but not necessarily a favourite.
I Would Like To Know
How did ‘The Only Story’ make you feel? Are you glad you read it?
Did you find the narrative gripping? Did it hold your attention? Did you like the changing perspectives?
Who was your favourite character? Did you have any?
Did you have a favourite passage? Are there sections of the story you re-read?
The ending? How did you feel about it?
Is it the kind of book you would normally read? Was it challenging and creatively rewarding as a reader?
Did you like it? Would you recommend it?