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I was expecting a lot from this but found only meandering writing and a nothing plot. The prose is thick and clingy and tries desperately to be poetic and meaningful but is so tediously unreadable (with a few exceptions). I really struggled to enjoy the writing and found it cloying and unnatural to the extent that it never feels like you're reading a person's real thoughts or hearing any real dialogue. The prose is more about presenting you with meaning than conveying any particular information. Some might be tempted to apologise for this obvious flaw by suggesting it's a book that you need to read more than once because it's demanding but that's nonsense. Other writers manage to write demanding and meaningful works without making me groan every time I turn a page to discover that the chapter hasn't ended yet.

So why do people make a fuss about it? Well, because it was published in 1936 and predominantly (and openly) details a lesbian love affair (Plus, it throws in a cross dresser for good measure). The plot itself is a straight-forward story about a woman named Robin Vote who marries Felix, has a child with him, realises she doesn't want to be a mother, runs off, starts an affair with a woman named Nora, then leaves her for another woman called Jenny. Pretty much all of the characters are unlikeable (not always a bad thing), and they all seem to come from a background of privilege and comfort (they swan about Europe and the world despite never seemingly working for a living). Suffice it to say, it was difficult to care about any of them.

The bottom line here is this: if you're going to enjoy this book then you're only going to enjoy it based on the style of writing and the thick, gloopy prose which Barnes offers.

I didn't.

Not to say that the book is bad or anything, just that it's not my thing. Had this been a story about bricklayers going to the park for a picnic, I doubt anyone would be talking about it today. But because it explores a lesbian affair it seems to have acquired a more noteworthy status. Definitely worth a look (especially if you like that style of writing) but not for me.

Thank goodness it was short.



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