Here is my best summary of the plot without giving anything away;
The novella is the introspective journey of Tony Webster, a middle aged balding man looking back on some of the defining events of his life. A lawyer's letter informing him of an unexpected testament in a will, forces Tony to revisit his youth through the hazy mirage of unremarkable decades gone-by. In many ways the protagonist has lived an ordinary life and there is a sense that much of whats happened to him, has really happened to others and that he's lived vicariously in that afterglow. The complicated semi-celibate relationship with his girlfriend Veronica. Her subsequent leaving him for his superior school friend and intellectual, Adrian. Adrian's suicide. Tony believes he understands his role in these events, that somehow history is in his grasp and as accurate as his beliefs about it. However, he is taken on a journey that forces him to reexamine his assumed knowledge of himself and his startling role in the events all those years before.
The novel is a poignant one and Barnes writes with wonderful dexterity. Welcomingly the work is not overly ponderous however, it still engenders an amount of self-reflection in the reader as we work through the maze of Tony Webster's predicament. Furthermore, the shortness of the book, 160 pages, makes it infinitely more readable and gives it a certain potency that may have been lost if Tony had been given more time with his audience. As the plot isn't particularly fast paced Barnes adopts an economical and selective approach to storytelling, which effectively mirrors the mind of our protagonist.
I would recommend this book to anyone, especially from a stylistic and technical viewpoint. When I read books it isn't always for entertainment, but sometimes for the pure pleasure gleaned from an insight into the imaginations of some of the greatest minds of our time. Julian Barnes doesn't disappoint and truly delivers something unique and inspired.