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Flaubert's Parrot (Picador Books) Paperback – 18 Mar 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New Edit/Cover edition (18 Mar. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330289764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330289764
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 657,620 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


"Delightful and enriching... A book to revel in" (Joseph Heller)

"A gem: an unashamed literary novel that is also unashamed to be readable, and broadly entertaining. Bravo!" (John Irving)

"Endless food for thought, beautifully written... A tour de force" (Germaine Greer)

"Unputdownable... A mesmeric original" (Philip Larkin)

"A wry and graceful book... Unfailingly sharp and often very funny" (Sunday Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


'A wry and graceful book ... Unfailingly sharp and often very funny.' (The Sunday Times)

'Endless food for thought, beautifully written ... A tour de force.' (Germaine Greer) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael Farman on 20 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback
I can understand why this book was short-listed for the Booker Prize, but I can also understand why it didn't win. As one would expect from a work by Julian Barnes, it is masterfully written and crafted with great skill. So what's not to like? Well, for me the problem is that, however cleverly and wittily presented, these excessive details of Flaubert's life are BORING. If I wanted to know about Flaubert's life, the few paragraphs on the Wikipedia page are sufficient. A whole book on the subject is just too much. And however much information about him is unearthed, in my view this takes us no nearer to the essence of the man, which inevitably died when he died. Perhaps Barnes intends to make this point.

What is left of the book without Flaubert is Braithwaite, the narrator, whom we get to know bit by bit as the book progresses. But he is a little baffling. Is he the author's avatar? I imagine the author would deny this and say that their relationship is a little more "nuanced". I guess he is a channel for Barnes to express many of his own insights and opinions while pretending they are really someone else's. Towards the end of the book, Braitwaite reminiscences over the earlier death of his wife, and this parallels the author's own experience. So I finished the book confused by the hall of mirrors, in spite of the acute intelligence and wit displayed on almost every page.
For me, the parrot flew away.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 8 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
Without a doubt this is one of the best books I've ever read. It is stylish, engrossing, informative and, best of all, not too lengthy. I particularly like the way Barnes' oeuvre is such a multi-coloured parrot of a book itself: a diary, love story, collection of musings, essay on literary criticism, parody, and affectionate celebration of a great writer. This book has already been highly acclaimed and has achieved great success commercially, so the wonder is why Barnes, or others for that matter, have not written more like it. Perhaps it has to do with traditional British mistrust of 'cleverness', manifested as disdain for dandified romanticism and sophisticated wit. The Barnes bird is not so shy about spreading its wings or displaying such plumage, which is what makes Flaubert's Parrot such a pleasure to read. Perhaps Barnes himself is Flaubert's parrot - he has the Gallic sensibility, and seems knows more about Flaubert than I would consider healthy in an Englishman.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. della Griva on 11 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
Barne's 'Flaubert's Parrot' does not strike one immediately as a conventional piece of literature. It seems to be more a fascinating work of literary criticism, held together by the journey of Barnes' narrator, who delves deeply into the life and works of his idol Flaubert. There are even several chapters that support this idea, such as the various chronologies of Flaubert's life, and, especially, the mock examination questions near the end of the book.

Yet, despite this analytical emphasis on Flaubert's works, it is really the French writer's personality that is analysed and interpreted here. It is this suggestive, fictive element that I found most fascinating - the way that Barnes tries to work out the essence of this complicated, brilliant man through his own character. It is as if, despite all the facts that one can gain from his books and letters, the truth is that all efforts to work out a writer's life is just like creating a work of fiction.

And that is exactly what Barnes does in this novel. A clever, witty, really enjoyable read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By V. Oscarsson on 24 April 2006
Format: Paperback
This is an interesting book in the way it is structured especially with the play of so drastically varying the way the chapters were written.

Nonetheless, I am not sure that the frame of Mr.Braithwaite, the narrrator and doctor, around the biography of Flaubert, works. I had to keep going back to what his sad tale was which gets muddled between the suicide of his wife and the loner adulterous life of Flaubert. This became more like a prop rather than a person to enhance the analysis of Flaubert's life. On the other hand, the parrot dilemma brings the book full circle.

I was held though by how Barnes created a dialogue with this early 19th century author and felt frustrated that I was not more familiar with Flaubert's writing and modernist presence so ahead of his time.

As an aspiring writer, a second career, I noted many quote/phrases from Flaubert. Barnes must have done incredible research and the excitement was to be inside Flaubert's person through Barnes's interpretation. Perhaps this reader wanted to feel less intellectual and more in touch with the soul of Flaubert's life, to feel rather than read of 'his passions'. Perhaps Flaubert could not show his heart, though Barnes speaks of how crying came easily.

Maybe parrots cry, even stuffed ones.

Definitely a great read by an inventive author.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Nov. 2006
Format: Paperback
What I always keep in mind about Flaubert is that Raymond Chandler admired him. From my own distant recollections of Flaubert, I'd guess that what appealed to such a craftsman as Chandler was the workmanship - in both authors one has a similar sense that every sentence and indeed every word has been worked on with minute precision. On the other hand, Chandler was scathing about pretentiousness and affectation too. I never managed to finish anything by Flaubert because I found him a bit too literary in an offputting sense, and this was no doubt not his fault but mine. However I have to say that when it comes to Julian Barnes this is now the third novel of his that I have read, and for all his outstanding gifts he is beginning to get on my nerves slightly.

There is something rather preening and self-regarding about Barnes, I find. I don't deny him creative originality for a moment, but that comes across to me as being secondary to a wish to exercise and display his accomplishment as a writer. The way this book is put together is undeniably effective. Flaubert has a Dr Bovary , and Dr Bovary has a wife Emma who is unfaithful and kills herself. Barnes has a Dr Braithwaite who has a wife Ellen who was unfaithful and killed herself. Some combination of Dr Braithwaite and Mr Barnes (very skilfully alternated) research Flaubert's life, hanging their researches, cleverly but rather artificially, around the identification of a parrot called Loulou belonging to Flaubert's housekeeper. The significance of the parrot, I'd say, is principally to provide a good eye-catching title for the book rather than anything more essential.
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