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Love, etc. Paperback – June 11, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Oliver, Stuart, and Gillian have been friends and lovers. But it's been 10 years since this backbiting trio, which Julian Barnes first introduced in Talking It Over, last met--and a lot has changed. For starters, Oliver has married Gillian, and Stuart, his erstwhile best friend, hates him for it. Not just because Stuart was once married to Gillian, but because he still loves her and has never ceased to regard himself as her savior. Under the guise of repairing old friendships--"all blood under the bridge"--this mild-mannered third wheel insinuates himself into the couple's life by offering advice, providing support, and even giving Oliver a job. Once he's maneuvered his nemesis into a crippling depression, Stuart unveils his master plan.

In Love, Etc. Barnes adopts the same technique he used in the earlier installment, allowing his characters to speak their innermost thoughts and secrets directly to the reader--and just about everybody gets some good lines. (Oliver: "Yes, everything went swimmingly, which is a very peculiar adverb to apply to a social event, considering how most human beings swim.") But the book is also a bewitchingly intimate excursion into betrayal and jealousy. With painstaking detail, Barnes creates a vibrant portrait of a modern love triangle--as funny as it is cruel, as absurd as it is deep. Few contemporary writers can portray Middle England, with all its temptations, so darkly. --Matthew Baylis --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The ever-brilliant Barnes concocts a mordant sexual comedy for his latest novel, taking over the later lives of three characters he introduced in the earlier Talking It Over. Straight, rather stuffy organic-food kingpin Stuart; his former best friend, the ebulliently witty layabout Oliver; and Gillian, whom Oliver stole from Stuart, address the reader in turns about just what happened (or in Oliver's case, show off for the reader in a dazzling display of verbal pyrotechnics that would bring down the house if this were a play). There's no doubt that in most ways Stuart deserves Gillian more than Oliver does, and the latter's attraction for her seems odd. On the other hand, Oliver is, unexpectedly, quite a good father, and there are hints of obtuseness and brutality about Stuart's bluff self-satisfaction. Poor Gillian, whose French-born mother also comments on the proceedings from a cynical distance, seems quite unable to decide between the two men when Stuart forcibly reenters her life. Out of their often self-serving, sometimes touchingly self-aware accounts of a handful of encounters emerges a funny, occasionally poignant look at the strange confusion between friendship and loveAas well as more than a hint that nobody truly knows just who they really are and what they are capable of. It's slight but telling and, except for Oliver's wonderful and witty set pieces, oddly subdued for Barnes, but it would make an excellent play, in the Tom Stoppard vein. (Feb. 13) Forecast: Although Barnes's succession of clever novels have won him a following here, the strongly English domesticity portrayed in Love, Etc. seems unlikely to gather him many new adherents. For connoisseurs of brilliant invective, however, it's a treat, and Knopf is anticipating that interest with a 40,000 first printing.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725883
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #772,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on March 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have read and enjoyed all of the work that Mr. Barnes has published. There are works that stand out and distinguish themselves better than another, but overall he writes at a skill level that most contemporary writers only dream about. Based on, "Love, etc", a book written 10 years after, "Talking It Over", with events taking place 10 years later as well, is one of the best of his works I have read.
Mr. Barnes could have taken the road already successfully traveled and just recycled the same primary characters of the first book. They were all very well done, and the resulting second work would have been good as well. However 10 years is a long time, and just as his characters have changed and become more complex through experience, I believe Mr. Barnes probably spent a good deal of time bringing not just the next installment of these lives to us, but raising the level of his writing, and greatly expanding the number of players. Some new voices are only cameos, others as integral to the plot as the original trio of Stuart, Gillian, and Oliver.
I may be in the minority, but I did not see the original work as being unfinished. Many books could have additional chapters or sequels, and the first was not any type of cliffhanger. That said this continuation is excellent, and I hope he does not wait another decade to expand this to a triptych.
Without spoiling anything, Stuart has progressed, Oliver has become too clever for even himself, and Gillian is Gillian albeit a bit more of an enigma that serial marrier as in the first book. This piece is certainly darker than the first; some may even find it violent. However as with the first work the events that unwind are shared with the reader by those involved, so the accounts must be weighed.
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By A Customer on February 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Although married and proud of his wife, the successful businessman Stuart never forgot the betrayal in which his witty friend Oliver stole his wife Gillian. Over the past few years, Oliver and Gillian seem to have forged a happy life together while Stuart, though successful, never found happiness. Oliver and Gillian have had children and shockingly he is a good father.

However, that does not stop the "partially Americanized" upper crust Englishman Stuart from obsessing over paradise lost and his plan to regain paradise. Stuart covets Gillian and he will be as methodically successful with regaining her as he has been with the organic food distribution business. The cost to others no longer matters.

LOVE, ETC., the sequel to TALKING IT OVER, is a strange relationship tale because the characters (including support players) talk in asides to the reader and not to each other. Thus the entertaining and often humorous (especially when Oliver provides a soliloquy) story reads more like a play than a novel. Julian Barnes invites the audience to come inside the heads of the cast to see varying perspectives on the same events. This ingenious book is for those fans of relationship dramas that like their literature a bit different as Mr. Barnes shows why he is so amusingly good.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
Julian Barnes always impresses me with his accurate character portrayal of both the British and the French, as well as with his generally poignant social commentary.
"Love Etc", for me, was a literary drug as addictive as his previous works, though I was left with a greater sense of sadness than I have felt when reading past Barnes' masterpieces. Perhaps it is my memory playing tricks on me, but it seems that the ten years that passed between this work and "Talking it Over" in the lives of both the characters and Mr. Barnes himself, have paid a toll. The work starts with the same ironic and captivating humour of the past, but as it unfolds, the sadness of reality overwhelms the humour. The general lack of optimism left me feeling very numb at times. Whilst captivating, and easy to read because it is in dialogue form; a slightly bitter accuracy of the character portrayal makes it painful to digest the work at times.
This is not to say that the overall impression created by this novel is any less intelligent, measured or fascinating than former works of Barnes. "Love Etc" is a fabulous and thought-provoking reflection of many marriages and friendships through these well-developed, now matured characters whom we met ten years before in "Talking it Over".
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By A Customer on January 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Julian Barnes is capable of writing great novels. Staring at the Sun; and Flaubert's Parrot are both excellent - the latter particularly representative of the best of Barnes's writing style. This style is similar in some ways to the later novels of Milan Kundera, where plot and character study are secondary to the ideas that are explored in various digressions. (Although at his best Barnes has a sympathy for character - especially female characters - that Kundera either does not achieve or is not interested in). Indeed, in a recent collection of critical essays James Wood suggested that Barnes is more of an essay writer than a novelist, and this can be seen especially in Flaubert's Parrot and A History of the world in 10 1/2 chapters.
Given the high standards of the best of Barnes's fiction his readership have certain expectations that if not met lead to great disappointment. Julian Barnes' last novel, England, England was one such disappointment. A heavy handed satire, toying with notions of nationality and nationhood, it somehow found its way onto the Booker Prize shortlist (perhaps saying more about the paucity of modern British fiction and the quality of the judging panel than the quality of the novel). It is disappointing to note that the novel under review, Love etc, is not a return to form.
Love etc is a belated sequel to Talking it over (1991), and was the name of a French film adapted from Talking it over in 1997. Talking it over itself seemed to stem from the half chapter in a History of the World in 10 1/2 chapters - an essay on the meaning of love. Taliking it over had three principal characters, Stuart - the quiet boring one; Oliver - the flamboyant pretentious one; and Gillian - the sensible one. The three characters were caught in a love triangle.
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