x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Julian Barnes releases third collection of stories

Between 2008's Nothing to Be Frightened Of, a self-directed pep talk on the spectre of mortality, and the writing of this, Julian Barnes's third collection of stories and 13th work of fiction, the author's wife died. There's accordingly a grim sense of theory put to the test in these tales of mourning and loss.

Between 2008's Nothing to Be Frightened Of, a self-directed pep talk on the spectre of mortality, and the writing of this, Julian Barnes's third collection of stories and 13th work of fiction, the author's wife died. There's accordingly a grim sense of theory put to the test in these tales of mourning and loss.

In East Wind, the volume's opening story, a divorced estate agent drifts into an East Anglian coastal town and starts a relationship with an eastern European waitress. Frustrated at her reticence, he searches her belongings for a clue to her past, only to stumble on a sad and horrifying secret. In Marriage Lines, a bereaved husband seeks consolation in the Hebrides where he and his wife used to holiday, only to find that "he was not in charge of grief. Grief was in charge of him".

Most impressive is the title story, a portrait of a tenderly companionate marriage unravelled by disease, drawn from the perspective of a bitterly divorced son. Barnes was always the subtlest novelist of the Amis clique, but he had a reputation for cold cerebralism. Pulse's aching heart should give the lie to that.