Metroland, by Julian Barnes



Metroland, by Julian Barnes – While this is the first book that Julian Barnes published, way back in 1980, it is also definitely the dullest of the three of his that I’ve read (none of which I really enjoyed very much). No wonder – it won the Somerset Mahgham Prize! I still wonder why people I know who like reading much more than I do adore Barnes. Maybe they are reading it for different words than I am?

Sliced into three distinct parts, this slight book (it could have easily been edited down to one or two very good short stories) covers a short period in the author’s (it is surely autobiographical, as first novels are wont to be) early life, his first overseas foray, along with the more recent post-marriage and post-baby phase. Great.

So the narrator Christopher plays innocent French word games with his tri-cultural partner in crime Toni (a Polish Jew born in the UK) in British museums in the first act; in the second he matures, bedding a French girl in a brief, cryptic romance, while in the third part he comes full circle, enduring a casual crisis with his wife, whom he met at the same time.

Sounds exhausting, but there’s no need for concern – it’s all very irrelevant. There’s a brief moment when the tale gets interesting, which could have made one of the two short stories this novel had in it: that moment occurs when our hero realises with relief that he’s a cuckold, confirming at the same time our theory that he’s a loser – but it’s really quite brief. Great.


Comments are closed.