Customer Reviews


21 Reviews
5 star:
 (18)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


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 26 2000 by kimp


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Julian Barnes on How Flaubert Can or Can't Change Your Life, Aug. 11 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
"Flaubert's Parrot, c'est moi." (Fran Lebowitz)

When someone mentions Flaubert in conversation, the first thing that usually pops into one's head is - almost inevitably - "Madame Bovary". The first thing I think of though is "Flaubert's Parrot" by Julian Barnes.
It has become not uncommon for the Brits to write perceptive analysis of French authors - Alain de Botton's "How Prouste Can Change Your Life" is only a recent example. It's probably the very nature of a complicated relationship between the two countries, their often emphasized difference that bears fruit like Barnes' masterpiece: profound knowledge of the close neighbor, on one hand, and on the other, an ability to keep one's distance and stay aloof, for the purposes of estranged observation. Barnes employs both. As a result, we have a work of art that is neither English nor French, but both, in which English irony and self-scrutiy mingle with French grace and wit in a most successful combination.
"Flaubert's Parrot" is also a mixture of styles, both fiction and literary criticism, diary and biography. We get to view Flaubert's life though the eyes of one Doctor Geoffrey Braithwaite who sets off to reconstruct the writer's life in order to - probably - better understand the human nature and thus to - possibly - comprehend a mystery of his own wife's suicide.
In Flaubert's melancholy the protagonist finds - perhaps an illusionary - comfort, almost a feeling of shared sadness which he might fail to encounter among his contemporary friends, in case he has any. It actually seems that Gustave, as Braithwaite takes to calling the writer, is his only friend. There is an "advantage of making friends with those already dead." Both are lonely, prone to self-analysis and are mourning a loss: Flaubert, of his mother; the doctor, of his wife.
A curious "animal-theory" introduced by Barnes could have become the ground for a Ph.D. study by one of those contemporary scholars who often turn to obscure topics having run out of traditional ones. Throughout his notes Flaubert compares himself to a number of animals, but "secretly, essentially, he is a Bear." It truly tells us more about his character than it might seem. We tend to see ourselves through others. Every one of us has a fluffy, flying or even creepy counterpart in the animal kingdom. Horoscopes tell us we are "aries", "pisces", "leos", "scorpios", "capricorns". Barnes plays with linguistic variations of the French word "ours" (a rough fellow, a police cell) and it's literary allusions (La Fontaine's fable). Now we have yet another image of the writer: Flaubear.
But then why is the book called Flaubert's Parrot?
We are to participate in yet another quest that Doctor Braithwaite undertakes: there exists a stuffed parrot which supposedly inspired Flaubert to write "Un Coer Simple", a story about a poor lonely woman and her bird.Which is also a symbol of the writer's grotesque and his other animal counterpart, according to Braithwaite.
Braithwaite's notes about France where he travels in "a packed cross-Channel ferry,..a modern ship of fools" are alternated with Flaubert's about England - another hint to the "mixed background" of the book. The same with the past and present: they intervene, implicate and compliment each other, cancel and suggest each other's truths. The protagonist tries to reconstruct the past through memoirs, literature, Things which feed his imagination. Braithwaite does not find the past romantic, or better, or particularly interesting - it is merely a framework of Flaubert's creativity, an ambiance of his exitence. It simply is. Flaubert's view of his time was not much brighter than Braithwaite's of today's world. After all, OUR past was only HIS everyday present.
The most fascinating and subtle interplay of the two lives is to be found in the last chapters, in which Braithwaite tells a story of his marriage and of his wife's death. The dead writer comments on it, from the past. The story is intermingled with the episodes of Flaubert's life that have to do with grief.
Braithwaite's wife was unfaithful ("Madame Bovary, c'est moi"?). Through Flaubert's writing he seeks to understand the nature of her adultery. Was it simply, as Nabokov put it, "a most conventional way to rise above the conventional"? or was she merely unhappy? It strikes us that Braithwaite is a doctor, just like Charles Bovary. It does not surprise us that he does not find any solutions in the book:"Books say: she did this because. Life says: she did this..." Books and dissertations might explain why Emma commited adultery and died. Nothing will explain why Ellen did. Braithwaite is left tete-a-tete with himself, like Gustave after his beloved mother's death.
Braithwaite is alone, at the end of his parrot-quest, facing three identical parrots at the provincial French museum of Natural History. "Perhaps...we should prefer the consolation of non-fulfillment."
Well, perhaps.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


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!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Highbrow Fun, Oct. 6 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Flaubert's Parrot (Paperback)
I use this in an AP course I teach, and the kids love it. We read Madame Bovary, "A Simple Heart," and then the Barnes. And this is how I recommend you read it too. (Knowing Sentimental Education probably helps too.) Barnes is right to choose Flaubert as his protagonist's obsession; other choices he (and Braithwaite) make are also felicitous. Best of all, when all the virtuoso pyrotechnics are finished, what remains is a profoundly moving human story. In many ways, this novel redeems so many of the empty puzzles passing themselves off as postmodern fiction these days. For me, Barnes belongs in the company of Pynchon and Gass.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Flaubert's Parrot
Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes (Paperback - Sept. 6 2002)
Used & New from: CDN$ 0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews