Julian Barnes - Pulse (3 stars)

Julian Barnes - Pulse

(Jonathan Cape)

Julian Barnes’ third short story collection is divided into two books. The first deals with modern, middle-class folks in various states of relationship, from newly-single men trying to start over again, to couples conversing at dinner parties, and on to older women reflecting on a lifetime of half-remembered lovers. The second half continues with the relationship strand, but each story concerns itself specifically with one of the five senses.

The first book, with its focus on the upper-middle classes, feels a little lacking, as if Barnes is aiming to write prose of upper-middle quality: there are smatterings of character detail, such as an estate agent’s eye for property defects, but on the whole it feels rather shallow. It’s in the second section that Barnes excels, though, widening his scope to include impassioned historical figures as well as contemporary accounts that feel much more genuine than those of the first part.

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