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After the best-selling Arthur & George and Nothing to Be Frightened Of, Julian Barnes returns with fourteen stories about longing and loss, friendship and love, whose mysterious natures he examines with his trademark wit and observant eye.
From an imperial capital in the eighteenth century to Garibaldi’s adventures in the nineteenth, from the vineyards of Italy to the English seaside in our time, he finds the “stages, transitions, arguments” that define us. A newly divorced real estate agent can’t resist invading his reticent girlfriend’s privacy, but the information he finds reveals only his callously shallow curiosity. A couple come together through an illicit cigarette and a song shared over the din of a Chinese restaurant. A widower revisiting the Scottish island he’d treasured with his wife learns how difficult it is to purge oneself of grief. And throughout, friends gather regularly at dinner parties and perfect the art of cerebral, sometimes bawdy banter about the world passing before them.
Whether domestic or extraordinary, each story pulses with the resonance, spark, and poignant humor for which Barnes is justly heralded.
“Graceful . . . Keenly funny . . . Barnes’ tales are shrewd, piquant, and moving [and] his gift for deft, acerbic dialogue is finely honed.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist
“Companionship—the search for, the basking in, and the loss of—binds Barnes’s first-rate collection . . . Dryly witty [and] poignant.” —Publishers Weekly, starred
“Elegance and versatility—familiar Barnes strengths [that] define this latest story collection . . . . Another impressive addition to an already impressive oeuvre.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred
“Filled with gems. . . . [B]eautiful, elegiac tales about how marriages endure or change over time. . . . A testament to Mr. Barnes’s full panoply of talents. . . . [He’s a] confident literary decathlete, proficient at old-fashioned storytelling, dialogue-driven portraiture, postmodern collage, political allegory and farce, [and the] ability to create narratives with both surface brio and finely calibrated philosophical subtexts.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Marvelously inventive. . . . Pulse sneaks up on you, and by the end, you cannot help but be moved. These are stories that illuminate characters not through dramatic epiphanies but real, small turns in the road and moments of change. [Barnes’s] prose is rich without being showy; he has a precision and economy of language that at times recalls William Trevor. Above all, Pulse shows a contemporary master working at the height of his ability.” —Jill Owens, The Oregonian
“Of our leading novelists, Julian Barnes has one of the richest historical imaginations. . . . His main business here is the present, particularly that portion of it that includes bright, relentlessly articulate people encountering the first pangs of aging and its discontents. . . . His characters are never tragic. They are inhabitants of a gray-scale world, plugging on through life chastened by the experiences Barnes recounts, but not devastated by them. That may be why we identify with them so easily, so instructively.” —Richard Schickel, Los Angeles Times