The Only Story

The Only Story Would You Rather Love The , And Suffer The Or Love The Less, And Suffer The Less That Is, I Think, Finally, The Only Real QuestionFirst Love Has Lifelong Consequences, But Paul Doesn T Know Anything About That At Nineteen At Nineteen, He S Proud Of The Fact His Relationship Flies In The Face Of Social ConventionAs He Grows Older, The Demands Placed On Paul By Love Become Far Greater Than He Could Possibly Have ForeseenTender And Wise, The Only Story Is A Deeply Moving Novel By One Of Fiction S Greatest Mappers Of The Human Heart

Julian Patrick Barnes is a contemporary English writer of postmodernism in literature He has been shortlisted three times for the Man Booker Prize Flaubert s Parrot 1984 , England, England 1998 , and Arthur George 2005 , and won the prize for The Sense of an Ending 2011 He has written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.Following an education at the City of London School

[Reading] ➿ The Only Story By Julian Barnes –
  • Hardcover
  • 213 pages
  • The Only Story
  • Julian Barnes
  • 25 November 2017
  • 9781787330696

10 thoughts on “The Only Story

  1. says:

    This is Julian Barnes s latest offering, an author I absolutely adore It is a profound and moving love story, and the complexities, intense suffering and heartbreak that accompanies it It has Paul looking back on his only story, the love of his life, and his shifting perspectives as time passes Barnes can be relied on for his well crafted beautiful prose and imagery, underscored by a musicality that beguiles and delights The novel is split into three parts, and relates the story of 19 year old Paul, a Sussex University student who in 1963 meets and falls in love with 48 year old married Susan, who has children older than him and carries heavy emotional baggage from her personal history What follows in a detailed examination of the repercussions on the people in their lives of their love affair amidst the middle class suburban attitudes, social norms and expectations of the period that the lovers are subject to.Barnes uses the classic device of moving from first person narrative, to the second person and finally the third person to highlight the increasing distance that Paul injects into his love story, moving from the intense passion at the beginning to a dispassionate approach He is aware that his memories are unreliable and his thinking tainted by self delusion What Barnes gives is his insights into the human condition, a subtle reflection and observations on the nature of love and the trajectory it follows for Paul, infused with an air of melancholia set in a specific time and place Whilst there are echoes of Barnes previous novels, I found this a brilliant and thought provoking read that I recommend highly Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.

  2. says:

    Would you rather love the , and suffer the or love the less, and suffer the less That is, I think, finally, the only real question You may point out correctly that it isn t a real question Because we don t have the choice If we had the choice, then there would be a question But we don t, so there isn t Who can control how much they love If you can control it, then it isn t love I don t know what you call it instead, but it isn t love .Thus begins the latest novel by one of my favorite authors, Julian Barnes I immediately knew, just by reading those words that I will be witness to a beautiful and heartbreaking love story which will leave me, after the last page, fulfilled by the exquisite writing but also spent from suffering along with the characters I was entirely right Most of us have only one story that matters, only one finally worth telling This is mine .The Author tells the story of Paul, a young man of 19 and his first love, Susan, a middle age married woman of 48 They meet in 1963 on the tennis court, where fate brought them together for a double match They begin to spend and time together until they fall irremediably in love The novel is divided in three parts, the first chapter is written in first person and relates the beginning of the love story The second part is a mixture of 1st and 2nd person and deals with the inevitable degradation and end love while the 3rd part, where we showed Paul s remaining life, is written mostly in a detached 3rd person The authors explain his choices to use these narration techniques better than I could And first love always happens in the overwhelming first person How can it not Also, in the overwhelming present tense It takes us time to realize that there are other persons, and other tenses But nowadays, the raucousness of the first person within him was stilled It was as if he viewed, and lived, his life in the third person Which allowed him to assess it accurately, he believed I thought that the change between 1st, 2nd and 3rd person narration to be of powerful effect and it worked very well to confer the intended atmosphere and tension It was particularly compelling in the 2nd chapter which started in 1st person and moved to 2nd person when the relationship started to face problems and Susan changed 2nd person is somewhat in between the personal 1st person and the 3rd, which suggests an intermediary state, where Paul s efforts failure to save Susan and their love transitions from the intense love and suffering to a detached form If you read The Sense of An Ending, you get to immediately see the similarity between The Only Story and the 2011 Booker winner They both deal with an older man looking back at his life and the unreliability of memory If in The Sense of An Ending the theme is subtly introduced and we are left to discover it ourselves while reading, here it is expressed, out in the open through narrator s words But here s the first problem If this is your only story, then it s the one you have most often told and retold, even if as is the case here mainly to yourself The question then is do all these retellings bring you closer to the truth of what happened, or move you further away He sometimes asked himself a question about life Which are truer, the happy memories, or the unhappy ones He decided, eventually, that the question was unanswerable So, that familiar question of memory He recognized that memory was unreliable and biased, but in which direction Towards optimism That made initial sense You remembered your past in cheerful terms because this validated your existence You didn t have to see your life as any kind of triumph his own had hardly been that but you did need to tell yourself that it had been interesting, enjoyable, purposeful Purposeful That would be pitching it a bit high Still, an optimistic memory might make it easier to part from life, might soften the pain of extinction But you could equally argue the opposite If memory is biased towards pessimism, if, retrospectively, all appears blacker and bleaker than it actually was, then this might make life easier to leave behind I don t know if the similarities were intentional or if there was laziness in finding new ideas However, both novels are amazing and in the same time similar and different, both worth reading and living.The Only Story is a story about and powerful love sorted to fail, about hope, social conventions, shame, unspoken guilt and loss It is a beautifully written novel, as everything Barnes writes and I consider myself lucky to have been able to read this novel before it was published I want to thank to Julian Barnes, Random House UK Vintage, and Netgalley for this copy in exchange for an honest review I read and ARC and the quotes may change in the final version of the book.

  3. says:

    First love fixes a life forever this much I have discovered over the years It may not outrank subsequent loves, but they will always be affected by its existence It may serve as model, or as counterexample It may overshadow subsequent loves on the other hand, it can make them easier, better Though sometimes, first love cauterises the heart, and all any searcher will find thereafter is scar tissue When Paul was 19 years old and visiting his family in a stifling London suburb while on summer break from university, his mother encouraged him to visit the local tennis club While silently mocking the self important people who took their tennis seriously and themselves even so, he is randomly partnered in a tournament with Susan Macleod Despite the obvious differences between them Susan is in her late 40s, married, mother to two adult daughters, the two develop a strong bond.Susan likes to tease Paul for his youthful braggadocio, his lack of real knowledge of the world around him and relationships, and his playful nature Paul is utterly fascinated by Susan s sense of humor, her candidness about her unsatisfying marriage and her less than appealing husband, and the sense that she s not concerned or shocked by anything After a long period of flirtation, the two become lovers.Despite disapproval from his parents and some in the community around them, Susan and Paul carry out their relationship hidden in nearly plain sight He spends a great deal of time at her house, being routinely welcomed and abused by her husband and daughters, and Paul wonders if everyone knows the truth and chooses not to delve too deeply, or if they re fooling everyone An idealistic young man, he dreams of running away with her one day, rescuing her from the life she seems unhappily chained to One of the things I thought about Susan and me at the time, and now, again, all these years later is that there often didn t seem words for our relationship at least, none that fitted But perhaps this is an illusion all lovers have about themselves that they escape both category and description When the couple finally does flee to London and move in together, at first it seems like the realization of their mostly Paul s dreams He has escaped his parents disappointment and helped free Susan from a loveless and occasionally abusive marriage But little by little, the cracks in their relationship begin to show themselves, the differences between them magnify, and Paul realizes that there is deeper unhappiness in Susan than he ever could imagine.In The Only Story , Julian Barnes provides a meditation on first love, on the most impactful relationship in our lives, and how it shapes our later views on love, relationships, happiness, and trust It s a longing, nostalgic look at what seemed like simpler times, before we realized what a hold the world had on us, and how factors beyond our feelings for one another can affect our relationships It s also an insightful commentary on obligation, desire, commitment, and emotion.Barnes is really a magnificent writer I absolutely loved his book The Sense of an Ending see my review , which I read seven years ago But while I marveled at Barnes use of language, emotion, and imagery, I didn t find this book particularly captivating I was drawn in by the subject matter, but it moved very slowly, and meandered quite a bit Paul also had a way of being coy with his narration, which frustrated me.May December romances are familiar literary fodder, and today, we re just as apt to read stories about younger men and older women, with the man being affected than the woman While Barnes definitely brings a few new twists to this age old trope, I wish that The Only Story had a little spark for me, so I could remember than just how beautifully told the story was See all of my reviews at, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at

  4. says:

    Would you rather love the , and suffer the or love the less, and suffer the less That is, I think, finally, the only real question This sentence, which introduced this most recent book of Julian Barnes to his potential readers, was pretty much my Achilles heel from Page 1 I don t quite understand how you can adjust the levels of love, like making marks on a burette and letting the content drip as per your desire of colour and consistency of the final emotion Quantifying love is beyond my comprehension.And yet, there is a certain granular tenderness in this story of a young man and his almost thirty years senior lover that prevents this love story from turning into a chore.Seen in the rearview mirror during his twilight years, Paul reminisces the first time his 19 years old self fell for the 48 years old married Susan at a Tennis Court when the two were brought, fortuitously, together to team up for a mixed doubles match, and that his feelings were near immediately reciprocated Ignited by this act that was both adventurous and liberating, Paul and Susan built walls around them, barricading their respective families with a dangerous, and often confounding, indifference and pushing this affair out of their current state, both literally and geographically But at their new abode, that stripped them off their familial clutches, love gets suddenly exposed to the calamities of habituation, expectations and ageing As a result, a whole new world sprouts between the two one where they commence playing from different sides.Barnes signature prodding into the delicate gossamer of human dilemmas and questionable foibles is much on display here although the narrative veered to the unpleasant edge of excess a good many times Of the three sections the novel is divided into, the first was a watertight bag that didn t allow for any of my emotions to blossom The characters appeared like a bunch left unanchored on a theatre stage, waiting for the director to give them a cue But beyond those 80 odd pages, Barnes plays his magic trick and all of a sudden, the palette of love bursts open and renders an immersive experience The turning points when love turns into duty, the duty into a burden, the burden into a gash and the gash into a permanent scar, are the crevices where Barnes resonated the most with me Love was by its very nature disruptive, cataclysmic and if it was not, then it was not love There, he did speak my mind Also on my blog

  5. says:

    I love Julian Barnes writing His The Sense of an Ending and Levels of Life were brilliant He is absolutely one of my favorite authors That s why it is so disappointing to not have enjoyed his most recent book The Only Story The story of a 19 year old boy having an affair with a middle aged woman just wasn t my thing.I will of course be looking forward to his next endeavor 3 out of 5 stars

  6. says:

    Leaving this unrated I ve made it to 30% and this is an author I usually adore His writing is wonderful as always but the plot just doesn t appeal Quite frankly, I m bored and just can t continue reading this When a book is a chore to read the best thing to do is move on It is what I have decided to do with sincere apologies to the author.

  7. says:

    I recently read a sentence in another book that stayed with me There comes a time in every man s life when he looks back than forward fitting in Julian Barnes The Only Story This book is as much about a man s memories fading memories as well than it is about love He sometimes asked himself a question about life Which were truer, the happy memories, or unhappy ones He decided, eventually, that the question was unanswerable He remembered his own early attempts to define love, back in the village, alone in his bed Love, he had ventured was like a vast and sudden increasing of a lifelong frown Wow bleak experiencelove is an increasing blessed smile for me I found the beginning intriguingpart two the least interestingand the last part the best sad.but at least the narrator expressed his feelings He was detached from his memories yet most raw and vulnerable It s debatable to me however that most of us have only one story worth telling that matters.

  8. says:

    2.5 stars rounded upI declared 2017 the Julian Barnes year on account of reading and loving seven of his books The Sense of An Ending, while it is one of his most popular books, was my least favourite novel of his The Only Story is somewhat similar to that one, as it has an older narrator, Paul, reminiscing about his nineteen year old self in the 1960s and his first love and relationship with Susan, a woman twenty nine years his senior You read that right Honestly, I didn t have any qualms about that, I read books about younger men being seduced by older women before.I would rather be outraged than bored And oh my, it pains me to say this, but The Only Story was tedious, repetitive and I had to force myself to get back to reading it I don t know about you, but when I read about something taboo, forbidden, especially a risky love affair, I expect passion, animal attraction, a sense of inevitability and urgency Even in the beginning of the relationship, there wasn t much fire It was all so dry and passionless It was all very proper without actually being proper Why was Paul so taken with Susan I couldn t tell you While the relationship lasts much longer than expected, unfortunately, it takes a very sad turn, as Susan becomes an alcoholic That was painful to read about At least, I felt something I was even annoyed with Paul and heartbroken for Susan.As for the writing, there were a few paragraphs worth highlighting, especially in the beginning, but it became repetitive and drawn out The shifts from the first person narration, to second and then to third and again back to first were jarring.Ultimately, I just didn t feel much about the characters and the writing wasn t outstanding to make up for the lack of a gripping story I ve received this novel via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review Many thanks to Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for allowing me to read this novel

  9. says:

    I d forgotten how contemplative and funny Julian Barnes is The mood of this novel is nostalgic and retrospective but not saccharine That a book so touching and tragic could be so ironic and amusing, and helplessly sad, and then end on a cold, blunt note struck me as realistic and sort of wonderful I really admired the final pages I don t think it should have ended any other way Our lives are often disastrous and heart breaking, our minds flit back and forth, and sometimes we are cold and cruel, and sometimes we just appear that way, and sometimes we are so young, and almost always we get broken, and this looking back and picking apart by Barnes s narrator, this drowning in what happened, and what was, and how it ended, was right up my alley I enjoy it now that it s over, oddly Perhaps it was triggering for me I didn t realize that there was panic inside her How could I have guessed I thought it was just inside me Now, I realize, rather late in the day, that it is in everyone It s a condition of our mortality We have codes of manners to allay and minimise it, jokes and routines, and so many forms of diversion and distraction But there is panic and pandemonium waiting to break out inside all of us, of this I am convinced I ve seen it roar out among the dying, as a last protest against the human condition and its chronic sadness But it is there in the most balanced and rational of us You just need the right circumstances, and it will surely appear And then you are at its mercy The panic takes some to God, others to despair, some to charitable works, others to drink, some to emotional oblivion, others to a life where they hope nothing serious will ever trouble them again.And when I see pairs of young lovers, vertically entwined on street corners, or horizontally entwined on a blanket in the park, the main feeling it arouses in me is a kind of protectiveness No, not pity protectiveness Not that they would want my protection And yet and this is curious the bravado they show in their behavior, the stronger my response I want to protect them from what the world is probably going to do to them, and from what they will probably do to each other.And by that time he had made the most terrifying discovery of his life, one which probably cast a shadow over all his subsequent relationships the realization that love, even the most ardent and the most sincere, can, given the correct assault, curdle into a mixture of pity and anger His love had gone, had been driven out, month by month, year by year But what shocked him was that the emotions which replaced it were just as violent as the love which had previously stood in his heart And so his life and his heart were just as agitated as before, except that she was no longer able to assuage his heart And that, finally, was when he had to give her back.

  10. says:

    The Only Story by Julian Barnes is an introspective retrospective on a first love and how it shaped the narrator s life I loved this thought provoking love story told many years later and the internal discussion about memories.In part one, nineteen year old Paul is home from university for the summer and with his mother s encouragement, he joins the local country club to play tennis He is partnered with Susan, a married woman old enough to be his mother Paul and Susan spend time together and as their lives intertwine, he meets Susan s friend Joan, and Susan gets to know Paul s college buddies Paul falls in love, Susan is attracted to him, and the unlikely couple begins an affair When their taboo relationship becomes public, they are kicked out of the country club Young Paul is energized by the public disapproval, and despite her marriage, albeit loveless, the two travel together, and they live together for over a decade There was love and romance, and everything was so good This is how Paul wants to remember.In part two Paul tells us all the things he remembers but would want to forget They had borders living with them in the attic, Susan s husband punched him and on another occasion he smashed her teeth in Susan was an alcoholic and taking antidepressants The realities of life are revealed and author Julian Barnes switches narration from first person, to third person as he distances himself from intense feelings of lust and love to disappointments and heartbreak.Susan and Paul s non traditional relationship was a beautiful love affair and at the same time marred by lies, abuse and alcohol Paul discusses the idea that feeling less and lower expectations can protect you from too much emotion and hurt His happiness is based on Susan, but her happiness has nothing to do with him She is devoted to drinking and he takes that as rejection.In the end, Paul can t stop Susan from drinking so he leaves her, but every time she needs him, he goes to her He is emotionally tethered and his love for her causes him to be angry and disgusted with himself, wondering if there is something to be said for feeling less.The Only Story is a raw look at young love, memory and bias, and how over time you can gloss over difficult times to shape your memories I enjoyed the author s retelling of Paul and his falling in love with an older woman, his all in full commitment and his naivet , her baggage with her husband, children and her addictions, and how his love blinded him Romantic and sad with love, forgiveness and continual heartbreak, this story is thought provoking when it comes to how we look back at our lives and remember certain things Beautifully written and short in length, this is well worth the read.Author interview included at

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