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Yes, I’ve been living under a rock—I only recently discovered Barnes through his most recent novel, "The Sense of an Ending" (2011). I couldn’t wait to dig into his back catalogue, and thought a sensible place to start would be the very beginning i.e. "Metroland".
Thematically, Barnes doesn’t seem to have strayed too far from his sweetspot over his 31 year career… my review for "Sense" noted themes of “memory, remorse, history, philosophy, secrets and lies” and this could literally be copy-pasted into my review of "Metroland" without arousing suspicion.
For my money, "Metroland" was more of a slowburner—a little sluggish to get moving but deeply satisfying by the end. It was profoundly uncomfortable to recognise some cringey parts of myself in Chris. But even more so to recognise bits of me in the incredibly prickly Toni.
Now that I’ve experienced Barnes’ bookend novels, I’ve concluded his true gift is in creating mundane and disappointed worlds with overt lack of sympathy that—somewhat paradoxically—leaves the reader with a sense of gentle optimism. Not a small feat.
Can’t wait to throw myself into "Flaubert’s Parrot".
As for this specific audioversion, Greg Wise is fantastic and sublime.
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