22 Nov 2011

Literary review - Julian Barnes' 'Flaubert's Parrot'


Only my second book review (that's appalling, but I have to read stupid critical essays instead). I started out unsure of Barnes' postmodern twist on Gustave Flaubert, not knowing anything about it I expected something a bit more 19th century. But after finishing it, and researching postmodernism I liked it more and more. I discovered I had a lot to say about the book, but got cut short in my seminar, and so will express my thoughts through blog-form.
- The form. Temporal distortion?
At first I was incredibly lost, chapter 3 ('Finder's Keepers) gives the reader a classic novel form, a plot, climax, beginning, middle and end etc, and you feel comfortable again. But Barnes changes this straight away, and we are given the 'story' from every angle imaginable. As I read on, I found myself enjoying the uniqueness of this form, I especially loved the chapter from Louise Colet's perspective.
- The language.
Barnes is a fantastic parallel for Flaubert's beautiful and profound language. This novel really does give you an appreciation for Flaubert as a writer, even though it is from a biased perspective. I picked out this quote from chapter 2, from Flaubert - "As you get older, the heart sheds its leaves like a tree. You cannot hold out against certain winds. Each day tears away a few more leaves; and then there are the storms that break off several branches at one go. And while nature's greenery grows back again in the spring, that of the heart never grows back"
- My main criticism is that books that experiment often fail to be entertaining, will sounds ridiculous coming from a writer, but I do think experimentation with new form is often contrived (different to be different) but I think Barnes does it just as his book is witty and heartfelt. Not exactly a curl up kind of book, but still happy to have read it.

1 comment:

  1. Still, after many years.... and several later offerings from Barnes, I return to Flaubert's Parrot :)

    kudalziel@gmail.com

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