From my limited reading of Barnes, Arthur & George was a surprisingly conventional novel for a generally non-linear writer. I believe that The Sense of an Ending is much more typical of his work.
There is really only one character in the novel, the (unreliable) narrator. I can see how you would be disappointed in this book if you were hoping for well developed characterizations.
I was fascinated by the developing suspense. Why the 500 pounds? Why leave the diary to Tony, and why wouldn't Veronica let him have it? Who are the group of mentally handicapped? What doesn't Tony understand? What does he not want to understand? Arranging the pieces and constructing an explanation was a major component of my enjoyment.
I thought that the plot was very skillfully developed in hints and asides. One of the major revelations of the novel is that Tony is essentailly a supporting character in the largest dramas of his own life. We all see ourselves as the protagonist. Imagine dicovering that you're a bit part!
I was also particularly charmed by the device of introducing a series of images at the very beginning. It was fun to recognize the images in context.
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