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England, England [Hardcover]

Julian Barnes
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 Aug 1998
As every schoolboy knows, you can fit the whole of England on the Isle of Wight. The grotesque, visionary tycoon, Sir Jack Pitman, takes the saying literally and constructs on the island, "The Project", a vast heritage centre.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; 1st edition (27 Aug 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224052756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224052757
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 344,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Julian Barnes is the author of ten novels, including Metroland, Flaubert's Parrot, A History of the World in 10½ Chapters and Arthur & George; two books of short stories, Cross Channel and The Lemon Table; and also three collections of journalism, Letters from London, Something to Declare, and The Pedant in the Kitchen.

His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. In France he is the only writer to have won both the Prix Médicis (for Flaubert's Parrot) and the Prix Femina (for Talking it Over). In 1993 he was awarded the Shakespeare Prize by the FVS Foundation of Hamburg. He lives in London.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Julian Barnes's England, England is a sharp-edged satire of Englishness at the end of the 20th century. The real England is failing--her empire lost, her aspirations to greatness subsiding, her history fading. Megalomaniacal entrepreneur Sir Jack Pitman hits upon the idea of creating an altogether superior, theme-park version of the original on the Isle of Wight (renamed simply the Island). His creative team includes Martha Cochraine, whose own childhood disappointments and unfulfilled dreams Barnes unfolds to the reader in the opening chapters. For a brief moment it looks as if able Martha will outsmart the ruthless Sir Jack, assisted by her grateful, bespectacled lover Paul Harrison (the operation's "ideas catcher"). But this is fantasy, so humble Paul betrays Martha (it would never do for the feisty woman to win after all). She retreats to the real England of faded glory, nostalgic folklore and regret.

In one section of this short novel the theme-park Dr Johnson talks entirely in direct quotations from his distinguished 18th-century counterpart, before being judged insufficiently convincing. The real, we understand, is less compelling than the fake. There are so many cultural allusions per page that the head of even the most enthusiastic English culture snob will spin. --Lisa Jardine


"Runs at glorious full tilt...delightful stuff" (Independent)

"A brilliant, Swiftian fantasy" (The Economist)

"There is no more intelligent writer on the literary scene. In this novel, he is also moving. He has written nothing more poignant and enticing" (John Carey Sunday Times)

"Not only a very funny satire about England and the world... He has also skilfully dissected the discomforting ways in which we have all grown to accept, and even depend on, illusion" (Wall Street Journal)

"Few writers think and talk so beguiling" (Zoë Heller Independent on Sunday) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars England's greatest exponent of the novel of ideas 2 April 2009
Julian Barnes has regularly turned out novels breaching the boundaries between fiction and essay, lolling around in ideas and dissecting them as an essayist would but through the machinations of plot.

The genius of the man lies in the fact that despite his leanings towards the essay his works exist as fully-fledged fictional works. He is arguably the greatest English novelist of the past twenty years and has a much more natural handling of the vagaries of plot and character than most of his contemporaries.

In 'England, England' he takes on the idea of utopia/dystopia but with his usual comic touch. The plot revolves around a businessman's attempts to seal his legacy by creating a sort of mini-England on the Isle of Wight. The island holds everything that foreigners think constitutes England, from Robin Hood to Fish and Chips and even a robin in the snow, and serves as a kind of amusement park come tourist haven, enabling people to experience the breadth of English history and geography in a matter of days.

In terms of ideas Barnes covers capitalism, the real vs the imitation, British tabloids, love, sex and fetishism.

It's one of his more unconventional novels and I probably wouldn't recommend it for a first time reader of Barnes (try 'Talking It Over' instead), but it is probably the novel of his that will be looked at most in academic circles and on university courses and will be read alongside '1984' and 'Brave New World' in the future as a study of utopias/dystopias.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well I thought it was wonderful 29 Dec 1998
By A Customer
As well as discussing England and 'Englishness', the book also asks of us to think of our own, individual, character or nature. And it's this that I found most interesting. Sure, the logistics involved in recreating a simulacra of England on the Isle of Wight are fascinating, but there's so much more to the novel as well. It would be crass of me to reduce the essence of this book to cliched questions like - 'Who am I? Where am I going? How will I know when I get there? Am I who I'm destined to be yet?' But I'm not a professional book reviewer, so you'll have to forgive such crassness.
'England, England' is a fine book, and there's more in there than you might think.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, entertaining and brilliant 10 Feb 2002
Barnes' reputation as one of Britain's foremost modern authors is strongly reinforced by this recent work. England, England is the story of one man's successful attempt to turn the Isle of Man into a gigantic theme park containing everything that represents England. He is so rich, and so influential, that this project manages to relocate key English landscapes and even the monarchy. The theme park becomes more and more "English", whilst, meanwhile, England is changing. What is left behind on the mainland in the absence of London Bridge, traditional pubs, the Royal Family, soldiers in bearskin hats, and so forth, is a much slower pace of life. With all foreign visitors now diverted to the Isle of Man, by then a quasi-state more powerful than the country it has emulated, England becomes progressively isolated and retreats within itself. An arcadian revival takes place, with a return to rural living, agriculture, village fetes and simple, uncluttered lifestyles. The natural question this draws us to ask is: "Which one is *really* England?" Barnes' concept is strikingly brilliant, and calls into sharp question the values to which we ascribe a certain country or people -- is what makes a country quintessentially that country the legacy of a rotting jumble of nineteenth-century national rhetoric - Britannia, the Union Jack, Queen and Country-, or is it rather something deeper, that has survived political change in the hearts and minds of its people over the centuries? The portrait of life in England Barnes paints by the end of the novel is so much simpler, so much more pleasant than the busy, noisy, stressful lives we lead today that one almost wishes someone would try to create that Isle of Man themepark. Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The first chapter alone is worth the whole book for the quality of the writing. Barnes' themes are treated lightly throughout his well-constructed narrative.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny. Clever. Insightful. 28 July 2011
I am listening to England England on CD in the car and decided to check to see what else the author has written and was amazed to see how few stars it gets. This is the first time I've read/ listened to anything my Julian Barnes and I am absolutely loving it. It's so well written and brilliantly funny. It makes me laugh helplessly every time I drive anywhere. (A bit dangerous sometimes!) The megalomaniac businessman -Sir Jack - is hilarious. ((@$! the Puffins' has become a catchphrase in my house!) Anyone who has ever sat in a meeting will recognise the subtle and vicious power play that Barnes describes. But there's so much more to this book than comedy. The opening chapter where we learn about Martha's childhood (especially the riffs on memory) is just beautiful and Barnes' ideas about identity and authenticity are fascinating. Everyone I know will be getting this for Christmas. If I don't know you, you'll have to get it for yourself!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting satire and social commentary 10 Dec 2000
Barnes's "England, England" is a humorous novel about historical and personal identity, and how both can be lost through overidealization of the past. Sir Jack Pitman, an egomaniacal tycoon, decides to build a theme park in which English history comes alive, and which subsequently becomes more popular than England itself. Caught up in this scheme are cynical Martha Cochrane, who is trying to find love, happiness, and personal identity among the mess, and Paul Harrison who is torn between his love for Martha and his loyalty to Sir Jack. The book itself is clever, but almost too clever at points, as Barnes sometimes sacrifices a decent plot line or character integrity in order to crack a cheap joke. The characters themselves, with the possible exceptions of Martha and Paul, are bland stereotypes, but since this is a satirical book, that can be forgiven. Barnes's writing style is easy to read, but some of the historical references can be lost on those unfamiliar with some of the finer points of British history. All in all, this is an entertaining, but not excellent book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars heavenly
better than silent meditation .. short stories to drop little lights into the dark corners of your subconscious .. yes we have all had these conversations .. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Audrey Evermore
1.0 out of 5 stars This was awful
I've never read any Julian Barnes books and if they're all like this, I won't be reading any more. I read just over a chapter and stopped. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Shoe addict
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining
I quite liked the storyline. In fact I ended up wistfully hoping for the Anglia so convincingly portrayed at the end.
Published 12 months ago by heartsease
3.0 out of 5 stars England, England
I haven't got round to reading this book yet, but it arrived in good condition, and as it is about the Island where my ancestors on one side of my family were born, I am sure I am... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Susan Oliver
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing's perfect
I purchased this book for a study course of what it mens to be 'English'.
The characters are less than loveable. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Joyce
2.0 out of 5 stars England, England
I did not like the whole virtual reality concept here. I can see what the author was getting at but did not appreciate either style or content although there were some redeeming... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Mrs. R. Rosenberg
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Great.
Julian Barnes seems to have passed me by but I recently read Sense of an Ending and found it to be a brilliant piece of work. Read more
Published on 30 Jun 2012 by J. Lee
4.0 out of 5 stars "It is not only necessary to succeed, it is necessary that others...
Satire has to either be full-blooded and out to savage its subject, or it just doesn't work. No one really likes mild satire, or at least, not for the length of a whole novel. Read more
Published on 23 Jun 2012 by Eileen Shaw
3.0 out of 5 stars A little convoluted
Maybe it is my fault rather than the author's, but I didn't find this book funny AT ALL - it didn't raise even a glimmer of a smile from start to finish. Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2012 by Laura Smith
1.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the best books were already written a long time ago
Didn't gain anything from this novel at any level, through the story line or through any interesting allegorical interpretation......nor was I entertained. Read more
Published on 8 Jan 2012 by Timothy S. Beattie
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