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The Noise of Time

“But you had to admire his understanding of power, at that, he was second to none.”

The Noise of Time ~ Julian Barnes

Shoot me, but the truth is that there wasn’t much I liked about this book. I know, I know how this sounds.

Especially since Julian Barnes is a personal favourite, also because everyone else seems to think this is a smashing work of art, also because he’s done this thing where he’s taken a real life historical character and written a semi-fictional tale about him. All those things are true, but to me, this book was just, just boring.

I liked the beginning, this idea of the greatest Soviet composer, waiting by the elevator at the dead of night; dressed and chain smoking cigarettes, waiting to be carried away by Stalin’s men. Once that was done with, the rest of the book seemed just too repetitive. I’ve been told that Barnes here has achieved a clever trick of composing the book in the form of Shostakovich’s music itself and perhaps if I understood his music better, I might have appreciated this book better.

However, all is not lost however…

Why you should read the book:

  • To gain insight into the life of a celebrated personality in Soviet Russia
  • The story is human and seemingly very close to the truth
  • For Barnes’ way with words

Why you might not want to read the book:

  • If you aren’t already acquainted with Shostakovich, then the story might not interest you
  • The narrative is missing drama, tension and might not induce you to turn the page
  • The many numbers of times, the phrase “Noise of Time” was used in the story