Barney's Version

Barney's Version - Mordecai Richler You don't read Mordecai Richler quickly - not if you want to enjoy the flavour of his bitter, self-aware, often politically incorrect wit. Barney Panofsky, our narrator, adds another level of self-awareness to the voice, for his memory is fading, and this is both demonstrated and discoursed upon throughout the rambling, only quasi-chronological history of Panofsky's life and loves. The organizing principle, such as it is, is his three wives (Clara, "The Second Mrs. Panofsky", and Miriam), but Barney doesn't let that trap him into a linear narrative!

There's a mystery at the heart of the novel - whether to believe Barney or not when he insists he had nothing to do with the death of an old friend whom he surprised in flagrante with the Second Mrs. Panovsky. The solution to that comes in an image right at the end - an image of a fire-fighting plane scooping up water from a lake - blink and you miss it.

Richler gives Barney a vivid cast of supporting characters, including his pedantic editor son, his friends from his youthful bohemian days, and various business associates of greater or lesser integrity, not to mention three sets of spousal relatives. I can see why this novel was attractive as a movie property, even though of necessity you'd lose that wonderfully complex narrative voice.

Really enjoyed this one.