> Skip to content

The brilliant new novel from the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending

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.
First love has lifelong consequences, but Paul doesn’t know anything about that at nineteen. At nineteen, he’s proud of the fact his relationship flies in the face of social convention.

As he grows older, the demands placed on Paul by love become far greater than he could possibly have foreseen.

Tender and wise, The Only Story is a deeply moving novel by one of fiction’s greatest mappers of the human heart.


A novelist at the height of his powers ... Quietly devastating.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, The Times


Kate Clanchy, Guardian

Emotionally acute, profoundly beautiful, as droll as it is deep... this has to be one of the smartest novels that 2018 has to offer.

Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday

A gentle, bleak, and brilliant novel.

Jon Day, Financial Times

Immensely powerful.

Alex Clark, New Statesman

This intense, taut, sad and often beautiful tale may well be Barnes’ best novel for years.

Lara Feigel, Spectator

A tender and heartbreaking novel.

Alex Preston, Observer

A sensitive look at what makes lovers tick.

Robbie Millen, The Times

Cunningly crafted and sharply observed.

Anthony Cummins, Daily Mail

As quiet and aching and intimate as a James Blake ballad.

Rupert Goold

A vivid dramatization of the narcissism of obsessive love.


Distils some of the pandemonium, and intergenerational conflict, of our own uncertain time.

Max Lin

Barnes writes with shattering emotional acuity. The moments of pure devastation pile up, the story crushing with increasing weight as it unfurls.

Lucy Scholes, Independent

An utterly devastating masterpiece of a novel.

Anne Cunningham, Irish Independent

A quietly harrowing novel about the complexity of love and the slipperiness of memory.

The Week

Barnes gives us a novel that asks the profoundest questions about memory, love and human existence.

Lindsay MacPherson and Ben Felsenburg, Harrods Magazine

What begins as a witty tale of rebellion against bourgeois norms becomes a moving meditation on love. Once again Barnes shows off his skill at getting to the heart of a human heart.

Fanny Blake, Woman & Home

Deeply affecting and profoundly philosophical, The Only Story is a novel by an author at the height of his technical powers.

Charlotte Heathcote, Sunday Express

Barnes' knowing combination of humour and seriousness makes [The Only Story] ... a persuasive universal romance.

Lindsay Duguid, Tablet

A beautiful, tragic and poignant novel.

Huston Gilmore, Daily Express


Paddy Kehoe, RTE Online

In this year’s hottest new releases.

The Week **Best Books 2018**

A brave and expansive work, compellingly told.

Susan Byron, Catholic Herald

Tender, wise and beautifully written, this is sad and deeply moving stuff from Barnes. Highly recommended.

Olaf Tyaransen, Hot Press

A solemn-ish meditation on the fallibility of memory… A love story – bitter and sweet in parts – unfurls.


A thoroughly rewarding book – a compassionate, touching and funny account… A profound book, it compels one to think about one’s own life.

Richard Hopton, Country & Town House

A brilliant, rueful look at love.

Tom Gliatto, People Magazine

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Hardback


    January 29, 2018

    Jonathan Cape

    RRP $32.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au



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.

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.

Continue Reading

Also by Julian Barnes

The Noise of Time
Keeping an Eye Open
Levels of Life
Through the Window
A Short History of Hairdressing (Storycuts)
Bark / The Silence (Storycuts)
Appetite (Storycuts)
The Things You Know (Storycuts)
The Story of Mats Israelson (Storycuts)
The Revival (Storycuts)
The Fruit Cage (Storycuts)
Knowing French (Storycuts)
Hygiene (Storycuts)
Vigilance (Storycuts)
The Sense of an Ending
Staring At The Sun
Before She Met Me
A History Of The World In 10 1/2 Chapters
Talking It Over
Flaubert's Parrot
Nothing To Be Frightened Of


The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
Midnight's Children
A Gentleman in Moscow
Echo Burning
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Girl on the Train
The Heart's Invisible Furies
Dragonfly In Amber
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Tiger Men
The Bear and The Nightingale
Swing Time
Ready Player One
The Trip of a Lifetime
On Chesil Beach
The Light Between Oceans
A Long Way from Home
The Travelling Cat Chronicles