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Non 1001 Book Review: The Noise of Time Julian Barnes


The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes is one of the books on our March Book Madness Bracket and was ranked number 1 in the “fiction by non-U.S. born authors. Did you pick it to go all the way? The book doesn’t come out in the U.S. until May but it has been out in the U.K. for a few months. Here’s my review:

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
Published in: 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★★
Find it here: The Noise of Time

This ARC was provided by Random House UK Vintage Publishing (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: In May 1937 a man in his early thirties waits by the lift of a Leningrad apartment block. He waits all through the night, expecting to be taken away to the Big House. Any celebrity he has known in the previous decade is no use to him now. And few who are taken to the Big House ever return.

So begins Julian Barnes’s first novel since his Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending. A story about the collision of Art and Power, about human compromise, human cowardice and human courage, it is the work of a true master.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: This is the kind of book that gives you nightmares. It does so not because there is explicit violence in it, but because the central character is living under the constant threat of dire consequences if anything he does is interpreted the wrong way. What makes this even scarier, is that the book is based on real people and events. Soviet Russia is a dangerous place to get yourself noticed and the central character, the world famous composer Shostakovich, has come to the attention of Stalin in a negative way. As a result, his life is not his own and he has to fear every choice he makes.

I loved the way this story was written. In terms of action, not a lot actually happens. Instead we live inside Shostakovich’s head as he recalls the most significant moments of his life. Barnes plays with language in a magnificent way and the black humour shines throughout the text.

Favourite Quotes:

“Except that – as his mind obstinately argued back – nothing ever begins as precisely as that. It began in different places and in different minds.”

“But it was probable that he looked exactly what he was; a man, like hundreds of others across the city, waiting, night after night, for arrest”

“The system of retribution had been greatly improved, and was so much more inclusive than it used to be”

“Not only would he not exist, he would never have existed. He had been a mistake, swiftly corrected; a face in a photograph that went missing”

“From now on there would be only two types of composer; those who were alive and frightened; and those who were dead”

“This was a nonsense; it wasn’t true – it couldn’t be true – because you cannot lie in music”

“There was much to be said for silence, that place where words run out and music begins”

“But to be a coward was to embark on a career that lasted a life time. You couldn’t ever relax”

“Because music, in the end, belonged to music. That was all you could say, or wish for”

Who would like this book: I would recommend this to anyone who has read and enjoyed The Sense of an Ending. It would also appeal to anyone with an interest in reading about life in Soviet Russia in a way that is not too graphic but stills portrays a menacing  atmosphere.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: The Noise of Time

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Isn’t it good? I read it last month for the Winter Challenge and loved it. I was very interested in the analysis of what becomes historical record – whether it is truth or whether it is what the powerful want us to think is truth. You’ve reminded me to put my review up on my blog, too!


    March 22, 2016
  2. I’ve been looking forward to this one – so glad to hear it’s done well.


    March 23, 2016

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