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The Only Story

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  12,470 ratings  ·  1,775 reviews
‘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.’

In a staid suburb fifteen miles south of London in the sixties Paul, nineteen, home from university for the holidays, is ur
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Hardcover, 254 pages
Published April 17th 2018 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published January 29th 2018)
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Bill Shubert I felt it was indicating how Paul felt about what he was telling. When he talks about happy things, he is there, and telling in the first person. When…moreI felt it was indicating how Paul felt about what he was telling. When he talks about happy things, he is there, and telling in the first person. When he is talking about difficult times, he is telling himself what to do, and is second person. When talking about very painful situations, he tells in the third person, trying to distance himself from it as much as possible. Looking at it this way lent an interesting note to the last couple pages.(less)
Susan Hutton When you live in a city, you’d say I’m going into town. When you live in a village, you’d say I’m going into the village. In this novel, “the village”…moreWhen you live in a city, you’d say I’m going into town. When you live in a village, you’d say I’m going into the village. In this novel, “the village” is actually a suburb, though will have been a village a long time before. There’s a pretentiousness in calling it the village - pretending it’s more rural and perhaps has more character than it actually has.(less)
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Average rating 3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  12,470 ratings  ·  1,775 reviews


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Paromjit
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is Julian Barnes's latest offering, an author I absolutely adore. It is a profound and moving love story, and the complexities, intense suffering and heartbreak that accompanies it. It has Paul looking back on his only story, the love of his life, and his shifting perspectives as time passes. Barnes can be relied on for his well crafted beautiful prose and imagery, underscored by a musicality that beguiles and delights. The novel is split into three parts, and relates the story of 19 year o ...more
Adina
.“Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question. You may point out –correctly –that it isn’t a real question. Because we don’t have the choice. If we had the choice, then there would be a question. But we don’t, so there isn’t. Who can control how much they love? If you can control it, then it isn’t love. I don’t know what you call it instead, but it isn’t love.”.

Thus begins the latest novel by one
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Larry H
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
"First love fixes a life forever: this much I have discovered over the years. It may not outrank subsequent loves, but they will always be affected by its existence. It may serve as model, or as counterexample. It may overshadow subsequent loves; on the other hand, it can make them easier, better. Though sometimes, first love cauterises the heart, and all any searcher will find thereafter is scar tissue."

When Paul was 19 years old and visiting his family in a stifling London suburb w
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Seemita
"Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question."
This sentence, which introduced this most recent book of Julian Barnes to his potential readers, was pretty much my Achilles heel from Page 1. I don’t quite understand how you can adjust the levels of love, like making marks on a burette and letting the content drip as per your desire of colour and consistency of the final emotion. Quantifying love is beyond my
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Diane S ☔
Leaving this unrated. I've made it to 30% and this is an author I usually adore. His writing is wonderful as always but the plot just doesn't appeal. Quite frankly, I'm bored and just can't continue reading this. When a book is a chore to read the best thing to do is move on. It is what I have decided to do with sincere apologies to the author.
Paula Kalin
I love Julian Barnes’ writing. His The Sense of an Ending and Levels of Life were brilliant. He is absolutely one of my favorite authors. That’s why it is so disappointing to not have enjoyed his most recent book The Only Story. The story of a 19 year old boy having an affair with a middle aged woman just wasn’t my thing.

I will of course be looking forward to his next endeavor!

3 out of 5 stars
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
I recently read a sentence in another book that stayed with me.
“There comes a time in every man’s life when he looks back more than forward”. ( fitting in Julian Barnes “The Only Story”)

This book is as much - about a man’s memories - fading memories as well-than it is about love.
“He sometimes asked himself a question about life. Which were truer, the happy memories, or unhappy ones? He decided, eventually, that the question was
unanswerable “.

“He remembered his own
early atte
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Bianca
2.5 stars rounded up

I declared 2017 the Julian Barnes year on account of reading and loving seven of his books.

The Sense of An Ending, while it is one of his most popular books, was my least favourite novel of his. The Only Story is somewhat similar to that one, as it has an older narrator, Paul, reminiscing about his nineteen-year-old self in the 1960s and his first love and relationship with Susan, a woman twenty-nine years his senior. You read that right. Honestly, I didn't have any qualms/>The
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Mary
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2018
I’d forgotten how contemplative and funny Julian Barnes is. The mood of this novel is nostalgic and retrospective – but not saccharine. That a book so touching and tragic could be so ironic and amusing, and helplessly sad, and then end on a cold, blunt note struck me as realistic and sort of wonderful. I really admired the final pages. I don’t think it should have ended any other way. Our lives are often disastrous and heart-breaking, our minds flit back and forth, and sometimes we are cold and ...more
Jennifer Blankfein

The Only Story by Julian Barnes is an introspective retrospective on a first love and how it shaped the narrator’s life. I loved this thought provoking love story told many years later and the internal discussion about memories.

In part one, nineteen year old Paul is home from university for the summer and with his mother’s encouragement, he joins the local country club to play tennis. He is partnered with Susan, a married woman old enough to be his mother. Paul and Susan spend time t
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Agnieszka

Love was by its very nature disruptive, cataclysmic; and if it was not, then it was not love.

I’m starting to have slight problem with Julian Barnes’ novels. While I still admire his dexterity and turn of phrase, he’s a great stylist and in every novel of him I’ve read so far there always are plenty highlighted passages I particularly enjoyed but net effect leaves me increasingly a bit unsatisfied. So it happened with The noise of time I read last year and here is the same issue. I will say it ag
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Michael
From some late state in mature life, Paul finds he still believes that “love is the only story” and feels compelled to tell the story of how in his youth at 19 years he took up fulfilling that mission with gusto in his love for one Susan McLeod. That she was nearly 30 years older than him made for some interesting challenges to his ideals. Though we’ve seen age disparities in books and movies before, I’ll admit it was a challenge for me to suspend my disbelief with that many decades of differenc ...more
Gumble's Yard
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
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.

Everyone has their love story. Everyone. It may have been a fiasco, it may have fizzled out, it may never even have got going, it may have been all in the mind, that doesn’t make it any less real. Sometimes, it makes it more real. Sometimes
...more
Trudie
( 2.5 probably but I feel guilted into a 3 )

So.... it pains me a little to write this review because I really don't like to be so far outside of popular opinion on a book. It is perhaps a shame this is my first Julian Barnes novel as I know he is a much beloved author and his The Sense of an Ending is a popular Booker winner. There is no doubt you are in capable writerly hands when picking up this novel. My reactions to this are not indictments about the writing itself, which is mostly mag
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James
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘The Only Story’ (2018) by Julian Barnes tells the story of one man – Paul and the one love, the only story, the single relationship that defines him, that determines his path in life.

There are echoes here of Barnes’ brilliant ‘Sense of an Ending’ – to which ‘Only Story’ is most definitely a worthy successor, but the two are both very different books, different stories to be told. In ‘Only Story’ Barnes is mapping the human heart and plotting the anatomy of a one-time functional, ers
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Neil
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, 2018
"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."

In The Only Story, Barnes revisits a subject he explored in The Sense of an Ending: the unreliable narrator, an older man looking back on his youth and trying to make sense of it. In the former book, we as readers worked out the inconsistency in the narra
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Dianne
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2018
"In love. everything is both true and false; it's the one subject on which it's impossible to say anything absurd."

This is a lusciously written meditation on love by the incomparable Julian Barnes. The story is a simple one; an older man ruminates on his first love and the consequences rendered upon his life - but this telling is all about the journey, the truths being discovered and pondered, the gentle unraveling of a life and love gone by.

I loved this, but it does meander a bit i
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Wen
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A maverick 19-year-old Paul falls head over heels for a 48-year-old Susan who he sees as an age-agnostic free-spirit, and who's non-assuming manner always elevates his confidence. .
The story drags on from here, even after the woman turns out as an impostor. Regardless of that, we can all imagine that the initial luster fades over time as the boy grows up. The romantic love, "absolute' as in theory, is called upon to cement the decade-long responsibility....
I'd better reserve my judgement; afte
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Hugh
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2019
A very different novel to The Noise of Time, this book also shows that Barnes is still in great form. As others have said, this one shares a few elements with his Booker winner The Sense of an Ending. Once again, we are looking back at the events of an older man's youth, and once again the nature of memory and love is a key theme. At times I was also reminded of his early novel Metroland.

The book has three sections, each of which has a different character.

The first part is narrated in the first p
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Nancy
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-to-read
"Don't expect too much of me."
from The Only Story

My mother warned me. She was thirty-eight and I was nineteen when she warned that it happens to all lovers. My aunt once pondered, "What happened to us?" while reflecting on her first love and failed marriage.

We see it all the time, famous couples in the news, the couple next door. We expect everything, throw ourselves into young love trusting that the connection shared is timeless and everlasting.

It is ou
...more
Meike
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read, uk
In this sad and beautiful novel, Barnes contemplates how a person's biggest love story can shape a whole life. Now you can certainly question whether there generally is something like "the only story", but to me, that is beside the point: Once more, this gifted author finds the perfect words to describe complicated inner worlds and to illustrate what moves people, what irrevocably affects them, and how certain events and feelings shape people in a way that leaves them changed forever - for better or ...more
Ellie
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Paul meets Susan in a suburb in England in the 1960s. It's love. Only problem: he's 19 and she's 48.

Thus begins a decades long love affair that is destroyed not by the age difference (although maybe indirectly so: Susan's much longer life experience has left her, in fact, more vulnerable than Paul). There are the gifts of love--and the sacrifices.

I finished this yesterday and waited until today to write this review, to see if I still felt the same about the book. I do. Br
...more
Roger Brunyate
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
 
Three-person'd Love
For instance, he thought he probably wouldn't have sex again before he died. Probably. Possibly. Unless. But on balance, he thought not. Sex involved two people. Two persons, first person and second person: you and I, you and me. But nowadays, the raucousness of the first person within him was stilled. It was as if he viewed, and lived, his life in the third person. Which allowed him to assess it more accurately, he believed.
My title does not imply anything so salacious as three in a bed, merely/>/>Three-person'd
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Roman Clodia
In 1963, a 19 year old student starts an affair with a 48 year old woman: a relationship that starts easily, which he believes is love...

This is very easy to read with some gentle humour in the first half, as well as indicators of the cruelty of lovers (Susan's nickname for her mild, dull husband is Mr Elephant Pants because of his vast grey trousers!), but ultimately I found it more telling for the social history, the sexual mores and expectations of the 1960s than especially insigh
...more
Jill
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps many of us DO have only one story in our life that matters. Perhaps we have several. But relegating The Only Story to a love story between a boy barely out of his teens and a woman firmly ensconced in middle age would be serving this novel short.

In truth, the book is about memory and how our stories become paradoxically, more nuanced and yet more distance as we age. Julian Barnes writes, “But nowadays, the raucousness of the first person within him was stilled. It was as if h
...more
Rebecca
(Nearly 4.5) A familiar story: a May–December romance fizzles out. A sad story: an idealistic young man who swears he’ll never be old and boring has to face that this romance isn’t all he wanted it to be. A love story nonetheless. And, as Paul believes, we each only really get one love story, and it will without a doubt be the defining story of our lives. When he met Susan, a 48-year-old, married mother of two, at the local tennis club when he was 19, Paul had no way of knowing that the little thing ...more
Emily B
When reading this I had a few hours with not much to do so I read around 70% of it in one sitting. I think if I read it under different circumstances and had to stop and start it, I probably would have found it difficult to pick up again.

I wasn’t that keen on the storyline of a 19 year old young man falling in love with a 48 year old married woman but found that other circumstances, relationships and the time period made it more interesting.

I definitely felt similarities between this and his o
...more
Victoria
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Beautiful, quotable prose, Barnes’ writing never disappoints and his narrative structure brilliantly marks the passage of the narrator’s years moving from the first person to the second and ultimately to the third.

But nowadays, the raucousness of the first person within him was stilled. It was if he viewed, and lived, his life in the third person. Which allowed him to assess it more accurately, he believed.

The story, however, was excruciating in its telling and left me wandering through h/>But
...more
Tooter
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish this book hadn't been so drawn out and boring in the last 50% because Julian Barnes writing is absolutely beautiful.
Paul Fulcher
We were together– under the same roof, that is– for ten or more years. Afterwards, I continued to see her regularly. In later years, less often. When she died, a few years ago, I acknowledged that the most vital part of my life had finally come to a close. I shall always think of her well, I promised myself. And this is how I would remember it all, if I could. But I can’t.

Julian Barnes’ latest novel, The Only Story tells the story of the narrator, Paul’s, one true love, through his memories l
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Book #6 1 9 Jan 08, 2019 10:45AM  
Play Book Tag: The Only Story - Julian Barnes - 4 solid stars 8 35 Apr 02, 2018 01:29PM  

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Julian Patrick Barnes is a contemporary English writer of postmodernism in literature. He has been shortlisted three times for the Man Booker Prize--- Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England (1998), and Arthur & George (2005), and won the prize for The Sense of an Ending (2011). He has written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.

Following an education at the City of L
...more
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“Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.” 48 likes
“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.” 26 likes
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