There is something frustrating, irritating and slightly unctuous about the modern literary elite - Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes. There shouldn't be, we should actually be proud of what they have produced and be prepared to absorb ourselves in their prestigious output. Barnes won the 2011 Booker Prize for this slim novella - and though I haven't actually read any of the others he beat to the title, it seems at least worthy of the honour. It's an uncomfortable read at times, dealing with the recollections of Tony Webster, a middle aged man dealing with a life of regret and questionable recollection. It is beautifully written with a straightforward story and cast of characters. His tone of voice, so eloquent and observant, and yet so unable to read people properly as time passes and to display such lack of awareness takes real skill. Building a story around an unsympathetic character is often hailed as a worthy trick to pull off, Amis and McEwan all revel in it. This is slightly different, as you never particularly root for Webster, but recoil in mild disgust. It's also an antidote to boastful Great American Novel writers who demand so much of you with their 150,000 word epic. None of that should put you off, it is a short, accessible and thoroughly engaging little gem of a book.