Julian Barnes’s new book (a recent Booker Prize-winner) is a tautly constructed, often melancholy story with some wonderful dialogue. It begins, like his first novel Metroland, with a group of intellectually adventurous, sexually clumsy London schoolboys. One is the narrator Tony, but the most interesting (and pretentious) is Adrian, who talks sophisticatedly about suicide and Albert Camus. At college, Tony has a girlfriend, Veronica, who goes off with Adrian — who then kills himself. Years pass, and Adrian’s mother dies, leaving Tony her son’s diary — except that Veronica has stolen it. The rest of the book is about how Tony tries to get the diary back, but also how the past unfolds in an elderly brain.