Novels are like cities: some are organised and laid out with the colour-coded clarity of public transport maps, with each chapter marking a progress from one station to the next, until all the characters have been successfully carried to their thematic terminus. Others, the subtler, wiser ones, offer no such immediately readable route maps. Instead of a journey through the city, they throw you into the city itself, and life itself: you are expected to find your own way. And their structure and purpose may not be immediately apparent, being based on the tacit network of ‘loans, debts, repayments and foreclosures’ that makes up human relationships. Nor do such novels move mechanically; they stray, they pause, they lollop, as life does, except with a greater purpose and hidden structure.
Julian Barnes, Through the Window: Seventeen Essays and a Short Story, 2012, p. 24