Jennifer Reese
July 09, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Lemon Table

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Julian Barnes
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A-

Sex, old age, and death haunt these chilly tales by eccentric virtuoso Barnes. An octogenarian husband is caught in an affair with an elderly widow and abruptly leaves his wife of many decades. A woman finds she can communicate with her demented and increasingly filthy-minded husband only by reading to him from cookbooks. And in the book’s most harrowing tale — a tiny masterpiece called ”Hygiene” — a senior citizen rides the train to London, happily anticipating his annual tryst with a longtime mistress. ”Were you as young as you felt, or as old as you looked?” he blithely wonders. By the train ride back he has his chilling answer.

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