Synopses & Reviews
After the best-selling Arthur & George
and Nothing to Be Frightened Of
, Julian Barnes returns with fourteen stories about longing and loss, friendship and love, whose mysterious natures he examines with his trademark wit and observant eye.
From an imperial capital in the eighteenth century to Garibaldis adventures in the nineteenth, from the vineyards of Italy to the English seaside in our time, he finds the “stages, transitions, arguments” that define us. A newly divorced real estate agent cant resist invading his reticent girlfriends privacy, but the information he finds reveals only his callously shallow curiosity. A couple come together through an illicit cigarette and a song shared over the din of a Chinese restaurant. A widower revisiting the Scottish island hed treasured with his wife learns how difficult it is to purge oneself of grief. And throughout, friends gather regularly at dinner parties and perfect the art of cerebral, sometimes bawdy banter about the world passing before them.
Whether domestic or extraordinary, each story pulses with the resonance, spark, and poignant humor for which Barnes is justly heralded.
"Companionship the search for, the basking in, and the loss of binds Barnes's first-rate collection of short stories, his first since 2004's The Lemon Table. In a lesser author's hands, a single story composed almost entirely of dialogue let alone four of them would collapse under the pressure of carrying off such a task and still moving along the narrative. But Barnes proves himself an erudite fly on the wall in his 'At Phil and Joanna's' series, which involves the postdinner conversations of a group of London friends discussing everything from the 2008 election to marmalade, sex, and testicle operations and each character comes alive despite the slightest hints of description and exposition. Vernon in 'East Wind,' on the other hand, takes the notion of observing a step too far during an awkward courtship with a German waitress in a seaside town. Though their circumstances couldn't be more different, the characters in 'Sleeping with John Updike,' 'Gardeners' World,' and 'Harmony' all find themselves at one time or another content in the knowledge of the space they share with a friend, spouse or healer, yet it is when this companionship is just out of reach, as in the dryly witty 'Trespass,' or snuffed out, as in the poignant title story, that Barnes shines brightest. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWxyz LLC)
"Elegance and versatility those familiar Barnes strengths define this latest story collection from the distinguished British author....Another impressive addition to an already impressive oeuvre." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Marvelously inventive....Pulse sneaks up on you, and by the end, you cannot help but be moved. These are stories that illuminate characters not through dramatic epiphanies but real, small turns in the road and moments of change. [Barnes's] prose is rich without being showy; he has a precision and economy of language that at times recalls William Trevor. Above all, Pulse shows a contemporary master working at the height of his ability." Jill Owens, The Oregonian
"Filled with gems...beautiful, elegiac tales about how marriages endure or change over time....A testament to Mr. Barnes's full panoply of talents...[He's a] confident literary decathlete, proficient at old-fashioned storytelling, dialogue-driven portraiture, postmodern collage, political allegory and farce, [and the] ability to create narratives with both surface brio and finely calibrated philosophical subtexts." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
About the Author
Julian Barnes is the author of two previous story collections, Cross Channel and The Lemon Table, and fourteen other books. He lives in London.