Chris's Reviews > Barney's Version

Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler
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Mar 09, 2011

really liked it
Read from March 09 to April 18, 2011

When I began this book well over a month ago (Yes, it took some devotion to trudge through it and stick with it), I didn't like it. I felt like it was supposed to be funny, but because of all the hockey references and Canadian history references, both of which I know nothing about, I felt like it was all over my head. By the end of the book, looking back on it, that's all part of its charm. This book is the memoir of an old man, intended to bash one of his long-time rivals, clear his name of an accused murder that has haunted most of his life, and recount his three failed marriages.

Anyway, as I started to say, it didn't appeal to me at first because Barney has lost it a little bit in his old age and the facts are all scrambled up. The book is written in three sections, one for each marriage, but all three marriages are at least mentioned in all three sections, etc, so there is very little continuous story line. So it's a bit hard to follow, and along with most of the references going way over my head, I couldn't get into it. However, being one of those people who cannot not finish a book once it's started, I stuck with it. Around page 150-200, I started to really like this book. You begin to just love Barney's cantankerous and somewhat doddering personality, and the sea of facts and characters and tidbits begins to look something like a life. You find out what he really thinks of himself, and how much he cherishes his family. I feel like this is a rare book in which I really saw into a character's mind and feelings. And perhaps its truly genuine nature is why it took so long to get into... so often in literature we expect that characters to just be laid out on a table for us and we take them or leave them for what we see. We love them or hate them. The evolution of MY relationship with Barney in this book is what really took me aback.

I will not give anything away, but in the end this book truly broke my heart. I only gave this book four stars rather than five because for about two weeks after I first started this book, I considered reading it a bit of a chore, and that finishing it would be a labor of love. And perhaps it was, but it really paid off. This is a rare book in which I had a real and true emotional response, and, as I said before, was forced to evolve as the book went on. My heart broke with about fifty-ish pages left to go in the book, and it kept on breaking all the way up until the very last paragraph of the afterword, and at the at point I was just shell-shocked. So good. A labor of love, but I highly recommend this book to anyone with some patience and time to devote to it.
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