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Those Barren Leaves (Coleman Dowell British Literature) Paperback – January 15, 1998
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“Brilliantly done; Those Barren Leaves has humour, daring, some excellent fooling, remarkable erudition and plenty of Huxley's salacious irony.” (The Guardian)
“Huxley has an utterly ruthless habit of building up an elaborate and sometimes almost romantic structure and then blowing it down with something too ironic to be called satire and too scornful to be called irony.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
“It is brilliant and daring . . . humorous, witty, clever, cultured.” (Nation and Athenaeum)
“The many-toned wit of the book, the beauty and shrewdness of its descriptions, the learning, the thought, the richness of character, the intellectual and artistic honesty of it . . . show that Mr. Huxley . . . will be a great novelist.” (Times Literary Supplement)
From the Back Cover
Aldous Huxley spares no one in his ironic, piercing portrayal of a group gathered in an Italian palace by the socially ambitious and self-professed lover of art, Mrs. Aldwinkle. Here, Mrs. Aldwinkle yearns to recapture the glories of the Italian Renaissance, but her guests ultimately fail to fulfill her naive expectations. Among her entourage are: a suffering poet and reluctant editor of the Rabbit Fanciers' Gazette who silently bears the widowed Mrs. Aldwinkle's desperate advances; a popular novelist who records every detail of her affair with another guest, the amorous Calamy, for future literary endeavors; and an aging sensualist philosopher who pursues a wealthy yet mentally-disabled heiress. Stripping the houseguests of their pretensions, Huxley reveals the superficiality of the cultural elite. Deliciously satirical, Those Barren Leaves bites the hands of those who dare to posture or feign sophistication and is as comically fresh today as when first published.
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A charming character study, this novel, and if the subjects aren't particularly memorable, what of it? There are any number of amusing scenes, and some are quite funny, in a staid British sort of way.
Huxley's plot, as usual, is thin, and he pokes fun of the stuffiness of British society in a quick moving and all together likeable novel well worth the time it takes to read it.
And, of course, there are any number of memorable sentences which delight the intellect with their beautiful craftmanship, a Huxley trademark.
A witty and unusual work.
The 1920's rentier classes acutely drawn. The pleasures they can buy - and the love that is denied them.
Also sharp, almost hilarious, pictures of un-moneyed hangers-on.
Take this book to Italy on holiday with you.
I liked several things about this book. The characters are interesting and Huxley has a way of bringing them to life. There are interesting and evocative descriptions of Italy, Tuscany in particular. I found the fact that momentous and terrifying world events were hanging over the scene silently in the background added poignancy to the setting and conversations. I kept thinking as I was reading how this world would soon be wrought by such unthinkable upheavals as the holocaust and Hiroshima.
This is a leisurely book with many lengthy conversations about intellectual and philosophical topics. It is an opportunity for Huxley to vent his many ideas and theories in an informal way and to explore various upper-class characters in a satirical but still sympathetic way. Usually I am impatient with lengthy philosophic musings in a novel, but Huxley is so interesting that I found myself less irritated than absorbed, although I must admit that I skimmed much of the discursive portions.
This is early Huxley, like Chrome Yellow and Point Counter Point. Those Barren Leaves is not a book for those who want a fast-paced, exciting story.