Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: An Education by Lynn Barber

One of my favorite films is An Education staring Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard. It's one of those that I watch every so often, and a few weeks ago when I watched it again, I noticed something in the opening credits that I never had before: "Based on the novel by Lynn Barber." I immediately hopped onto the local library's website and requested the book.

An Education by Lynn Barber is her very to-the-point autobiography. Her style is very British in that it's mostly a run down of the facts in the order that they happened. The story that drew me to reading this book, the one from the film about her experiences with a 30 something man named Simon who turns out to be married and deceived her in her teens, is only a 20 or 30 page chapter of this book. The film obviously took a lot of liberties, but the author was involved in the screen play so I can only assume that she filled in more details there than she does in this book. After basically being used as a teen, she becomes wildly promiscuous in college, but still manages to meet the man she would marry and stay with until his death. She went on to write for Penthouse magazine, progressing into writing books to some success, eventually discovering her love and talent for writing interviews, which she is most known for in Britain today.

The book was very short and direct, so much so that I powered through it all in less than a 24 hour period. I really enjoyed reading the high points of her life and what she learned. There was one particular facet that sticks out to me is the final story she tells. Her husband very sadly dies in his 50s from cancer, and as she receives condolence cards she was given a photograph of her husband she had never seen before. She was struck by his expression in the photo and how happy he looks, and she became convinced that he is looking at someone he is in love with ... who is not her. This thought stayed with her for weeks after his funeral, helping her cope with him being gone by showing her he wasn't perfect and that he had strayed from her in his life. She then received a letter from the person who supplied the photo answering her question about what was going on at the time. It turns out that the photo was taken at a party thrown for one of his good friends at work who was leaving. The two are both very drunk and laughing while Lynn's husband seems to be looking up at his colleague's wife to reassure her about her husband's state. It turned out to be a completely innocent situation, but due to Lynn's experience with being lied to earlier in her life she immediately suspected infidelity even from the man she spent most of her life with. She ends with this quote,
"I am a deep believer in the unknowability of other people - such was the lesson I learned from Simon all those years ago."
This is what really summed up the book for me, and what I still think of whenever I see its cover. How sad that this suspicion stayed with her for her entire life all because of how one person treated her when she was so young. A lifetime of being with a person who loved her and she loved in return couldn't erase the damage. I truly hope I nothing I endure ever sticks with me in such an unfortunate way.

I did enjoy this book, even if it was very different than what I went into it expecting. It is very well written and her life was certainly a very interesting one. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

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