From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending, an achingly profound love story between a young man on the cusp of adulthood and a woman whose life is gradually moving in the opposite direction.
Most of us have only one story to tell. I don't mean that only one thing happens to us in our lives: there are countless events, which we turn into countless stories. But there's only one that matters, only one finally worth telling. This is mine.
It is the early 1960s, in a staid suburb fifteen miles south of London. Paul, home from university for the holidays, is urged by his mother to join the tennis club. At the mixed doubles tournament he is partnered with Mrs. Susan Macleod: she's more than twice his age, and the married mother of two nearly grown-up daughters. Soon Paul and Susan embark on an unconventional affair, despite the disapproval of Paul's parents and the seething resentment of Susan's husband.
First love has lifelong consequences, but Paul doesn't know anything about that at nineteen. But as he grows older, the demands placed on Paul by love become far greater than he could possibly have foreseen.
Wryly observant and devastatingly tender, The Only Story is a profound, contemplative novel by one of fiction's greatest mappers of the human heart.
Barnes's deeply touching novel is a study of heartbreak; like his Man Booker Prize winning The Sense of an Ending, it includes fading reminiscences, emotional complications, and moments of immeasurable sadness as an aging Englishman remembers his first and only love. Bored 19-year-old Paul meets 48-year-old Susan at the tennis club when they pair up for mixed doubles. She has a husband and two daughters older than Paul, but it is the 1960s, Paul's first summer home from university, and he is impervious to social correctness, parental disapproval, or long-term consequences. Paul and Susan share a satiric view of their suburban surroundings that turns into a secret romance, then a not-so-secret affair. Together they move to London, where, over the next decade, Paul studies law and becomes a law office manager while Susan deteriorates into alcoholism and depression. Fifty years later, Paul looks back on the relationship in an account strewn with unanswerable questions and observations about the nature of love. As painful memories mount, Paul's narration switches first to second person and then builds more distance by settling into third person. By revisiting the flow and ebb of one man's passion, Barnes eloquently illuminates the connection between an old man and his younger self. 75,000-copy announced first printing.