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On the surface, at first, Julian Barnes's book is the tale of an elderly English doctor's search for some intriguing details of Flaubert's life. Geoffrey Braithwaite seems to be involved in an attempt to establish whether a particularly fine, lovely, and ancient stuffed parrot is in fact one originally "borrowed by G. Flaubert from the Museum of Rouen and placed on his worktable during the writing of Un coeur simple, where it is called Loulou, the parrot of Felicité, the principal character of the tale."
What begins as a droll and intriguing excursion into the minutiae of Flaubert's life and intellect, along with an attempt to solve the small puzzle of the parrot--or rather parrots, for there are two competing for the title of Gustave's avian confrere--soon devolves into something obscure and worrisome, the exploration of an arcane Braithwaite obsession that is perhaps even pathological. The first hint we have that all is not as it seems comes almost halfway into the book, when after a humorously cantankerous account of the inadequacies of literary critics, Braithwaite closes a chapter by saying, "Now do you understand why I hate critics? I could try and describe to you the expression in my eyes at this moment; but they are far too discoloured with rage." And from that point, things just get more and more curious, until they end in the most unexpected bang.
One passage perhaps best describes the overall effect of this extraordinary story: "You can define a net in one of two ways, depending on your point of view. Normally, you would say that it is a meshed instrument designed to catch fish. But you could, with no great injury to logic, reverse the image and define the net as a jocular lexicographer once did: he called it a collection of holes tied together with string." Julian Barnes demonstrates that it is possible to catch quite an interesting fish no matter how you define the net. --Andrew Himes
SPOILER ALERT! It takes a while to realize what this little book is about: at first you have the impression Barnes lets us share in his passion for the 19th Century French author... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Marc L
One of my personal favorites. A thriller of a well written read where one beautiful sentence flows down over another. Worthy of a fair try.Published 3 months ago by Theodora d'Concord
I have enormously enjoyed other books by Julian Barnes, I admire his command of the language and I like very much the way he develops a plot, but Flaubert's Parrot is not a novel,... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Maria Eugenia
I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters as Julian Barnes seemed more intent on intellectually showing off than engaging the reader.Published 4 months ago by Danielle Koopman
Julian Barnes writes great books, and this one was completely entertaining and informative. Beautifully written with good humor and history too bootPublished 4 months ago by Jack Boyce
If you want to learn how to write well, here is your guide. This is storytelling at its most pure, its most honest, and its most concise. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Rowann Gilman
Very smart, but not worthy of including in the New Everyman's Library as I like to imagine it. Nuff said.Published 8 months ago by Michael A. Roberts
I love the narrator's voice and the way he weaves Flaubert's story through his own biography - skillfully done and enjoyable to read.Published 8 months ago by Julie Giesting
Thought provoking, beautifully written, humorous, worthy of its subject. An exploration of Flaubert himself, and his ambiguities, illuminated through his parrot. Read morePublished 9 months ago by James Marsh