The Last Time I Stayed up All Night to Finish a Book Was…

The Only StoryThe Only Story by Julian Barnes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think the saddest thing about literature and cinema is the way abuse is romanticized. It’s usually a “Sleeping with the Enemy” thing and we believe that all a woman has to do is leave her abuser, later maybe fight him off a bit more, then she will have freedom. In general, we ignore the long-term psychological effects. Barnes does not.

In his story, Barnes has captured a reality most of us never see because most of us cannot face the reality of even our own situations and histories. One in nine girls is sexually abused, every nine seconds a woman in the US is assaulted or beaten, but we don’t want to acknowledge it with much more than a gasp, then we go back to ignoring it.

Abuse reverberates and hurts everyone. I’m not entirely sure that was what Barnes intended to convey, but that is what we see in his story. Abuse is also a million times more complicated than we want it to be. We want escape to be easy, we want the woman to simply be happy she got out and then we want her to be “normal” like us and never bring it up again.

If one is familiar with what abuse victims go through when they leave, one will see that Barnes has done an excellent job of conveying just how difficult it is to “get over and move on.”

I felt bad for both of the main characters. And for many of the peripheral characters. Barnes does a good job of realistically portraying events, which is not a common occurrence with this subject matter.

There is not usually any happy ever after in these situations. We just often believe there is because that is what we choose to see. Mostly, people who have experienced such trauma do not come out better for it any place except in fiction. It was nice to finally read a piece that did not bend in anyway to the sentimentality our culture insists upon when dealing with such a dreadful topic.

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