Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Canuck Book 9 - Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler

The great thing about spending much of this challenge re-reading books is that I feel I've had a chance to become reacquainted with some old friends. It's interesting to see how they've changed for me over the years. Sometimes I've forgotten things, sometimes I've remembered things differently. The past is such a fluid thing, even for books.

This is especially true with the fictional memoirs of Barney Panofsky. Barney is writing his memoirs to refute the soon to be published memoirs of his one-time friend turned enemy Terry McIvor. Divided into sections named after his three wives, the novel jumps back and forth between the past and the present while Barney gives his version of his life, including the disappearance of his best friend Boogie (for which Barney was tried and acquitted of murder). It's a shambling mess of a tale with myriad digressions and asides.

But that's the thing. Rereading this book, I see how well Richler put the tale together. The second time around, it's easier to see how much thought was put into each digression, each outburst. Richler takes the reader for one hell of a ride with just the right number of drops and twists to keep the reader going until they come up against an ending that killed me even the second time around.

Barney's Version is an incredible book and one that leaves me seriously divided. On the one hand, you read this book and wish that Richler had finished one more book. On the other hand, it's great to see that he went out in fine form, shouting and punching and landing more than a few good ones.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I really should reread this. I certainly enjoyed and admired it the first time, but I think I could pick up more nuances on a reread.

John Mutford said...

I'm so glad to hear it held up to a reread. A favourite of mine, I'm always worried that some of the magic I saw the first time around will be gone.

Remi said...

I was worried too but it held up really well.