A brilliant, moving, poignant collection of stories, from the author of Cross Channel and The Lemon Table
The stories in Julian Barnes’ long-awaited third collection are attuned to rhythms and currents: of the body, of love and sex, illness and death, connections and conversations. Each character is bent to a pulse, propelled on by success and loss, by new beginnings and endings. In ‘East Wind’ a divorced estate agent falls in love with a European waitress, but is tempted, despite his happiness, to investigate her past; in ‘The Limner’ a deaf painter discovers his patron’s likeness after spending time among his staff. Anchored off the coast of Brazil, Garibaldi spies his future wife through a telescope, and in ‘Marriage Lines’, a widower returns to a remote Scottish Island to relive a favourite holiday.
These are also lives in flux - in the ‘stages, transitions, arguments; incompatibilities which grow’ - as in the title story, where a man reflects on the break-up of his marriage, brought into new perspective by the actions of his parents; two writers, a ‘good team’, return from an event rehearsing familiar arguments; in ‘Gardener’s World’, a couple bond, fall out and bond again over flowers and vegetable patches.
Positioned in between are a series of evenings at ‘Phil & Joanna’s’, where among the topics of conversation – the environment, politics, the Britishness of marmalade, toilet graffiti and the perils of smoking – we witness the guests’ lives shift in sections over the course of a year.
Ranging from the domestic to the extraordinary, from the vineyards of Italy to the English seaside in winter, the stories in Pulse resonate and spark, each imbued with the humour, poignancy and perception that marks all Julian Barnes’ work. This is an imaginative and expertly-constructed new collection from a master of the form.
“Barnes' stylish prose, eye for emotional detail and sense of absurdity never let him down... He suits the short story very well”
“The prose is crisp and elegant, light on its feet but resonant with pathos, and flecked with acute observations that never fail to strike a vivid chord with the reader.... It all makes for a diverse, entertaining collection, alternating between plangency and playfulness”
Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler
“One of the most civilized and culturally rich brainscapes in contemporary fiction”
“All the stories in Pulse have the absolute completeness and density of the very best short fiction”
“Julian Barnes writes so exquisitely that every page of this collection contains literary pearls”
Mail on Sunday
“Masterclasses in the form, full of the sidelong wit and intelligence that make the writer one of our most consistently deft short-form stylists”
“The writing is as clear, as wry, dry and elegant as ever”
Helen Dunmore, The Times
“The stories are intelligent: emotionally, stylistically and intellectually. Aesthetically. Also, innovative and experimental without being pretentious or inaccessible. And, oh yes, beautifully written.”
“Pulse is as satisfying as any of Julian Barnes's much acclaimed novels. This fabulous collection of short stories is troubling, witty, sharp and moving”
“The promise shown by some of the other bright young stars of Barnes's generation has faded or fizzled out. His own star continues to shine. This is a delightful collection”
Alan Massie, The Scotsman
“Only Barnes could unite the heat of 'passion' with the coolness of 'taste'”
Scotland on Sunday
“Pulse is a collection of 14 short stories by the masterly Julian Barnes, celebrating the human condition with skill, with and precision. Some are laugh-out-loud hilarious, many somber and melancholy. All are brilliant in execution”
“Pulse is never less than interesting, elegantly written and quirky”
“Elegant collection... sensuously celebratory”
Peter Kemp, Sunday Times