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Barney's Version (Vintage International) Paperback – May 4, 2010
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But Barney does get around to telling his life story, a desperately funny but sad series of bungled relationships. His first wife, an artist and poet, commits suicide and becomes--à la Sylvia Plath--a feminist icon, and Barney is widely reviled for goading her toward death, if not actually murdering her. He marries the second Mrs. Panofsky, whom he calls a "Jewish-Canadian Princess," as an antidote to the first; it turns out to be a horrible mistake. The third, "Miriam, my heart's desire," is quite possibly his soul mate, but Barney botches this one, too. It's painful to watch him ruin everything, and even more painful to bear witness to his deteriorating memory. The mystery at the heart of Barney's story--did he or did he not kill his friend Boogie?--provides enough forward momentum to propel the reader through endless digressions, all three wives, and every one of Barney's nearly heartbreaking episodes of forgetfulness. Barney's Version, winner of Canada's 1997 Giller Prize, is Richler's 10th novel, and a dense, energetic, and ultimately poignant read. --R. Ellis --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
While the characterizations of Barney and his friends/family are top notch it is Richler's flair for biting satire and sarcastic wit which leaves the most lasting impression of Barney's Version. Joseph (Catch-22) Heller wrote novels with similar style and humour. Yet Richler's Barney has a more worldly, français feel about him compared to Heller's Brooklyn-based characters.
Bottom line: Richler presents a character that is larger than life; it's hard to believe Barney doesn't really exist. Strongly recommended.
But "Barney's Version", by Mordecai Richler, is definitely one of them.As a reader the same age as Barney, I laughed and cried over this wonderful character, and will love him till the day I die.
Barney is a 68 year old Jewish gentleman who has been married three times, widowed once, divorced twice, though still in love with "Miriam, my heart's desire." He had a gay (in the old meaning) youth gallivanting around Europe, then settled in America where he somehow gets charged with and tried for murder. I am a mystery buff, these chapters alone rate those five stars.
This novel is Barney's version of the dastardly deeds he has commited throughout his lifetime, and he will keep you laughing and crying and loving through the pages and through the years.
A bonus in the book is the contribution of Barney's son, Michael, who finds it necessary to footnote the book, correcting Barney here and there, as Barney's memory isn't as good as it used to be. He can never remember such important issues as the last two of the seven dwarfs, the name of that thing you drain spaghetti in, which of the big bands played "In the Mood" and who was that gorgeous brunette in Lil Abner? (You don't remember? Read the book!)
Just recalling the book tempts me to re-read it. I strongly advise you to buy a copy; don't borrow one, for you will never be able to bring yourself to part with it. Enjoy!
Teresa Bloomingdale firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of Richler's books have a larger-than-life, outrageous figure of some sort - the Star Maker, the Boy Wonder, the Horseman, Dr. Dr. Mueller, Solomon Gursky. In Barney, it's his buddy Boogie, who seems a fairly weak companion to the others. And everything about the novel is just a little weak compared to the other books. But maybe that's an unfair criticism. The greatness of the other novels shouldn't necessarily reflect badly on Barney. As an intro to Richler's body of work, it's a fine book, my personal reservations notwithstanding. But if you've already read most of Richler's other novels, you may be somewhat disappointed.
Four stars out of five.
With great panache, Richler loads his complex narrative with pungent satire and wry humor as he shows Barney near the end of his life, reflecting on his three marriages and divorces, his affairs, his career as a producer of second rate films and ads, his drinking, and his trial for the murder of his best friend, some thirty years before. Throughout the novel, Richler teases the reader with tiny pieces of information about the murder, creating suspense at the same time that he tamps it down with humor or neutralizes it by burying it in the mundane details of Barney's life over the span of forty years.
Certainly not a traditional murder mystery, the reader never receives the clues necessary to solve the murder until the last pages of the book. But solving the murder is hardly the point. This is Barney's story--the story of an exasperating and sometimes annoying man almost totally lacking in charm, a man who has spent a good part of his life avoiding responsibility. Now in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, Barney is an unreliable narrator, trying valiantly to set down his version of what happened to Boogie Moscovich.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
To truly appreciate "Barney's Version" for all its multiplicity of levels, a familiarity with its author's life is essential. Mordecai Richler was born January 27, 1931. Read morePublished 1 month ago by S
Good yarn with a lot of Canadian and Quebec references. Mordecai Richler was a unique person and his writing reflects this.Published 9 months ago by Daniel R Lewis
Saw the movie first, and found it interesting enough to get the book. Astonished that the book is in the form of a memoir, an interior monologue reviewing the marriages of the... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Robert Reitter
Read this because of the movie. Loved Loved Loved the movie (one of my top 10). The book is good, but this is one of the few times where I think I like the movie better--not... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Kyle
So I only read this book after seeing the movie. You really do take a random trip down "Barney's" memory lane. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Grace Roman
Terrific, very funny, unique novel in the vein of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth; at times outrageous and always engaging.Published 23 months ago by Michael