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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quaint, quirky, literate ,& ultimately, vastly entertaining
This may be the most unusual book I've ever read.
Sort of a philosophical treatise on art, writing, Flaubert, the French, compulsion and love presented under the guise of a very arcane literary detective story.
Barnes is a very quixotic and imaginative writer with a definitely skewed view of the world and an engaging and witty writing voice. The musings of the...
Published on Feb. 14 2002 by David J. Gannon

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Too tricky
I think that Barnes concentrated too much on being a clever little literary expert and that overshadowed the actual novel. Yes, it could been a lovely story of a man overcoming a difficult time in his life, but please enough with the clever little literary devices. It became a trial to finish and I was very disappointed in what had started out as a clever idea.
Published on April 27 2000 by kimp


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quaint, quirky, literate ,& ultimately, vastly entertaining, Feb. 14 2002
By 
David J. Gannon (San Antonio, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
This may be the most unusual book I've ever read.
Sort of a philosophical treatise on art, writing, Flaubert, the French, compulsion and love presented under the guise of a very arcane literary detective story.
Barnes is a very quixotic and imaginative writer with a definitely skewed view of the world and an engaging and witty writing voice. The musings of the narrator are well formed and allow the reader move along at a brisk pace. It helps that Flaubert himself was a wacky and iconoclastic figure-one of those people we've all heard of but don't really know anything about unless you are some sort of 19th century French literature freak.
This was the first Barnes novel I read and it was so good I have been slowly working my way through his other books, which has proven to be an altogether delightful experience. All of his novels are good-this one stands out from the pack.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What color are Loulou's wings?, Aug. 5 2001
By 
D. P. Birkett (Suffern, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
You have to have read Madame Bovary (or maybe Cliff's notes on Madame Bovary) to understand the plot. You don't have to have read "Un Coeur Simple" but you probably will after reading this. It's not until three-quarters of the way through that you suddenly realize there's a plot. Until then it's a series of very clever biographical essays about Flaubert. Then you understand why the narrator it obsessed with Flaubert. Then you get equally clever essays about the nature of love and grief. Wonderful insight into the poignancy of bereavement combined with sharp and erudite wit. It may be too erudite and clever for some. It demands a certain amount of francophilia and anglophilia, and understanding phrases like "I might let the TLS have it." I'd always thought it was Nabokov, not Starkie who accused Flaubert of getting mixed up about the color of Emma's eyes. I think he did get get mixed up about the color of Loulou's wings in Un Coeur Simple- at least in the English translation I read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars informative fiction, March 24 2013
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This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
Lots of facts mixed up with fiction It is a must to read alongside Madame Bovary. An eye for detail all the way through and compelling analysis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever Introduction to Flaubert, May 23 2001
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
This idea-driven novel is filled with brilliant observations, especially in the later chapters, that make me want to read Flaubert. But, in my opinion, the brilliance of these observations is not credibly attributable to personality of the narrator or the power of his trauma. As a result, the essayist Julian Barnes, as well as extensive comments from Flaubert ("With me, friendship is like the camel: once started, there is no way of stopping it.") seemed to carry the narrative load. Regardless, this is a very entertaining book that broadened this reader's horizons. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Felt, Highly Literate, Highly Entertaining, April 14 2001
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
Julian Barnes's novel/fictional biography/fictional autobiography, "Flaubert's Parrot" is a magnificent work. This is the first of Barnes's work that I have read, and it shall not be the last. In it, an admittedly mediocre, aging scholar, Geoffrey Braithwaite, professedly attempts to eschew the accepted notions of literary biography, while pursuing just the sort of minutiae he derides. In the case of Flaubert, Braithwaite becomes obsessed with two stuffed parrots - which is the one that inspired and annoyed Flaubert during the composition of 'Un coeur simple'?
Conventions of narrative, style, and form are dispensed with throughout this work - it is composed of a range of genres (mulit-voiced narratives, chronology, encyclopedia/dictionary, and even essay-exam questions). At the same time, the disparate modes are held together from the beginning by a deeper underlying drive - the uncovering of Flaubert's life and opinions operate as a function of Braithwaite's own unresolved issues with the death of his wife.
For all the Sartre-bashing that goes on in "Flaubert's Parrot," one notices striking resonances between Barnes's novel and one of Sartre's, to wit, "Nausea." In both, exasperated scholars find themselves feebly attempting to write intended biographies (for Sartre, the subject is Monsieur de Rollebon) while exploring their own relationship turmoils. Is this part of the much-discussed 'irony' that Braithwaite emphasizes as present in Flaubert's life and writings? Is Barnes, as the deus in absentia author, manipulating and ironizing Braithwaite's tumultuous search for truth about Flaubert to point out Braithwaite's own inconsistencies?
I digress. Braithwaite tackles Flaubert's life unconventionally - Flaubert is allowed to speak for himself through quotations from correspondence and novels; Flaubert's associates, mainly Maxime du Camp, and his primary lover, Louise Colet are allowed to give 'their own' accounts of their relationships with Flaubert. Braithwaite also presents the commonplaces of Flaubert biography and criticism. All of this is presented to give the reader a highly-biased while simultaneously distancing and impartial look at Flaubert, at Braithwaite, at Barnes, at history, at story, at art, at life, and at themselves.
The layering of texts gives a seemingly random assortment of information subtle, even insidious coherence. Quotes, citations, and scenarios are repeated at intervals and in different contexts, allowing the reader to flesh out the importance of each without being repetitive or monotonous. Such is also the case with motifs and images - the bear, the parrot, train-travel, time, medicine, and metafiction. Each device overlaps the other until you find yourself caught up in the significance of every line to the life of Flaubert, to the life and writing of Braithwaite, and to the author Barnes.
At times moving, at others repellent, still at others transfixing, Barnes stocks a wealth of knowledge and speculation about art and life into 190 highly entertaining pages. I don't know how much the reader learns about Flaubert, but the careful and attentive reader will learn quite a lot about something from "Flaubert's Parrot."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing But Net, Dec 12 2000
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
This is not the book that landed The Booker Prize for Mr. Barnes. I have read the novel that did win, "England, England", and I feel this is every bit as good. There are some familiar variants on phrases he has used before, and while not entirely new are not boringly repetitive. I also enjoyed the abrupt changes in point of view, a perspective change that altered the cadence of the novel.
Mr. Barnes has truly assembled this work as opposed to progressing from one chapter to the next. The first clever use of this is when you come upon a Chronology of Flaubert's life. Nothing-unusual here. However Mr. Julian Barnes is anything but another quick wit with a pen. So the reader is treated to 3 distinct Chronologies, the subject is essentially the same, however the only true commonality is on the date they end. The voice they are written in changes, and with this modification the mood as well.
We have a Narrator who loosely guides us through the tale, however a range of stylistic changes intrudes upon his narrative. Intrude is probably too strong a word for it all works, it all makes sense when placed in the complete context of the book. For one example, I cannot remember the last time I read a novel and found myself subjected to a test, complete with parameters, what is not acceptable regarding the form of answer, and finally a time limit. It did cause uncomfortable suppressed memories of literature exams, but the unpleasant moment is blessedly short. It will depend on how fond you were of written tests.
The Parrot is much more than a bird, and even when it does appear as an ornithologist would describe the creature, the number varies widely, as do the locations and clues to the one true bird. Throughout the balance of the book the word Parrot and the countless variations of language are not only extremely clever, they show the range of this man's grasp on language, his, and many others. This could have been a vacuous display of the use of a thesaurus, but Mr. Barnes does not use various words as decoration, he uses them because they are precisely what he needs.
There has only been one book that I would not recommend starting with, and that is "Metroland". This book is as good as any of the 6 or 7 I have read, and so far is one of the top 2. So start where you may, odds are this man's work will delight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In Search of Unfathomable Truth, Dec 1 2000
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
At the first sight this book is a story of an elderly English doctor Geoffrey Braithwaite who tries to reconstruct the life of the great French writer Gustave Flaubert in order to understand him. Those who love Flaubert will find in this wonderful novel a lot of interesting and amazing facts and details that could help them in better comprehension of their favorite writer's oeuvre. But this is only a top layer of the narrative. Dr Braithwaite really wants to solve the mystery of his beloved but unfaithful wife's suicide, using Flaubert's life as his own image in the psychological mirror of humanity (Gustave Fraubert, c'est moi?). But the truth of both Flaubert's life and his wife's suicide is unfathomable as the human life and death themselves. So everyone can claim the possession of truth, but only a personal truth, not the universal one. Just like both stuffed parrots (or even all 50 stuffed birds mentioned in the novel) could be the sought Flaubert's parrot which inspired him to write 'Un coeur simple'.
It is my first novel by Julian Barns but its excellent language and exquisite composition incite me to find other ones...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely exploration of narrative, time, and life..., Feb. 14 2001
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
A previous reviewer found the use of "clever" literary techniques by the author too much. On the contrary, they form the center of the novel--the possibility of finding a subject beneath and ultimately through literary expression. Barnes constructs a narrative that constantly brings itself into question--it uses biography to mask what some people may find "mere literary cleverness" but that, in turn, masks an autobiography, which also masks an exploration of the possibility of the representation of life, whether that be the life of the self or the life of an other. Biography becomes autobiography--inevitably, the writing of another precludes the writing of onesself. Our memory of Flaubert becomes filtered through the lens of a fictional character--and then filtered once again through the net of Julian Barnes. Instead of art merely reflecting life, as many people sometimes assume, our understanding of life, and indeed life itself, only become possible through the structuring of art. This novel shows how the form of art itself can be more important than the "content" supposedly given to us by biographers. For what, mind you, is content without form?
I would suggest that anyone interested either in Flaubert, in the memory of the self, in literary "reconstruction", or in criticism read this book. It has many delightful passages that satirizes the whole enterprise of criticism--the creation of literary categories, etc. One could either attempt to read this book as a manifesto one time, the writing of life, etc--or one could simply delight in the wit of Barnes and Braithwaite. One could obviously read this book in several different directions. This textual indeterminancy makes _Flaubert's Parrot_ one of the best books I've read in the past year.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Who would of thought?, Jan. 14 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
Who would of thought some dead French guy from the mid 1800's could be so interesting? I read this book on the recommendation of my brother but with the stipulation I read "Madame Bovary" first. I have to agree with this suggestion. Someone never having read anything by Flaubert would have a hard time understanding some of the glory of THIS book. Not so much a novel in the ordinary sense, but more one character's(fictional) almost irrational quest for knowledge about his favorite author. The novel is filled with quotes, timelines, and factual anticdotes from Flaubert and his life--what an absolutely amazing writer. I really don't want to give away too much because discovering Flaubert and his world view are the true joys of this book. Just read it and enjoy!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Too tricky, April 27 2000
By 
kimp (Brisbane, Queensland Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
I think that Barnes concentrated too much on being a clever little literary expert and that overshadowed the actual novel. Yes, it could been a lovely story of a man overcoming a difficult time in his life, but please enough with the clever little literary devices. It became a trial to finish and I was very disappointed in what had started out as a clever idea.
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Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes (Paperback - Sept. 6 2002)
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