The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

I can’t recall if I’ve ever ended up really liking a novel that was part biography of a real historical figure–this one, Shostokovich. Maybe it’s that I can feel the limits of authorial choice, or that entire lives don’t make very good novels. Part of the craft of the novel is finding the piece of life that has the right shape, beginning and end points centered around certain amounts of drama.

I had high hoes after Sense of an Ending, but I didn’t ever get absorbed in this. It never got personal or emotional. I felt as if the author had ingested a lot of facts and ideas and was faithful in relaying them but I never got human struggle. Maybe Barnes meant to do that–communism erasing individual experience and all that–but in the end, for this reader, it didn’t work as a novel.

Maybe some additional developed characters would have helped. For instance, the women–they’re just props. All of them. Seems like a wasted opportunity.

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