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Pulse [Kindle Edition]

Julian Barnes
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The stories in Julian Barnes' long-awaited third collection are attuned to rhythms and currents: of the body, of love and sex, illness and death, connections and conversations. A divorcee falls in love with a mysterious European waitress; a widower relives a favourite holiday; two writers rehearse familiar arguments; a couple bond, fall out and bond again over flowers and vegetable patches. And at a series of evenings at 'Phil & Joanna's', the topics of conversation range from the environment to the Britishness of marmalade, from toilet graffiti to smoking, as we witness the guests' lives in flux.

Ranging from the domestic to the extraordinary, from the vineyards of Italy to the English seaside in winter, the stories in Pulse resonate and spark.

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"Julian Barnes writes so exquisitely that every page of this collection contains literary pearls" Mail on Sunday "All the stories in Pulse have the absolute completeness and density of the very best short fiction" New Statesman "Masterclasses in the form, full of the sidelong wit and intelligence that make the writer one of our most consistently deft short-form stylists" Daily Telegraph "Barnes' stylish prose, eye for emotional detail and sense of absurdity never let him down... He suits the short story very well" Literary Review "The prose is crisp and elegant, light on its feet but resonant with pathos, and flecked with acute observations that never fail to strike a vivid chord with the reader... It all makes for a diverse, entertaining collection, alternating between plangency and playfulness" -- Sebastian Shakespeare Tatler

Book Description

A brilliant, moving, poignant collection of stories, from the author of Cross Channel and The Lemon Table

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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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine collection 10 Oct. 2011
By James
Like most collections of short stories, the quality and interest of the individual stories varies. I found the final one - "Pulse", from which the volume gets its title - the most satisfying, if that is the right word for a story told by a man whose own marriage is disintegrating and whose elderly parents are facing serious health problems. In thirty pages Barnes creates a poignant picture of three people who are determinedly resilient in the face of life's problems. There are several further similarly sad stories, whilst others are lighter, for example the four separate "At Phil and Joanna's" stories which recount the dinner party conversations of a group of friends. I would like to think that these conversations are meant to be a caricature of the sorts of conversations that slightly smug middle class people might hold at dinner parties, since each participant seems to be trying to impress the others by how clever he/she is, and in the process they all come across as rather unlikeable. I quite enjoyed reading these stories once I had decided to view them as caricatures, but I can't help wondering whether this was really Barnes's intention. Perhaps he really does talk to his friends like this! As usual with Barnes's writing there is plenty of wit; I particularly enjoyed his observation on page 180 about a group of four noisily quarrelling people that "Mozart would have happily set this operatic quartet to music".

The short story format is a challenging one for a serious novelist, since it doesn't provide the opportunity for extended development of characters and themes. It is therefore difficult for even the very best writers to write anything memorable in this format. As an illustration, what are your ten favourite books?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Jimbo
This is the first collection of Julian Barnes' short stories that I have read, having previously enjoyed Arthur and George. This is an exceptionally enjoyable and diverse collection that frequently hits notes of beauty along the way.

Overall, these stories have a wide variety of starting points and settings, although there are recurring characters in the four "At Phil and Joanna" stories that are interleaved into the first half of the book. The "Phil and Joanna" stories follow the conversations of a group of friends attending dinner parties at a number of occasions. The speakers aren't identified, leaving the reader to work out whose voice is whose, and they have a realistic feel whilst also being very funny.

Whilst there humour to be found within the other stories, there is a sense of loneliness or loss running through a number of the stories. Whilst the story "Marriage Lines" focuses more explicitly on bereavement, it is often more subtly explored in the other stories. Barnes introduces us to a range of characters who have found themselves isolated either by through circumstances beyond them, or inadvertently of their own making. So, we are introduced to a pair of mid-list female novelists competing against each other but with no one to go home to in "Sleeping with John Updike"; we meet a rambler struggling to find a soul-mate in "Trespass"; "The Limner" is about a deaf portrait painter; and in "Harmony" features a pianist being treated for her loss of sight. My personal favourite was "Gardner's Questions", which focuses on a domestic tiff about what to do when a couple acquire a house with a garden for the first time. The characters are always well drawn, the narrators voice works well in each story and these are stories that are frequently moving.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master of the art 7 Sept. 2011
Short stories are the most under rated and technically difficult form of literature; so when someone gets it right it's all the more impressive. Barnes has nailed it! The style reminds me of John Cheever, and some of the stories are almost as good!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Distinctive English voice 2 May 2011
Format:Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Julian Barnes is arguably the most distinctive English voice of his generation. Forget the pompous, wannabe yankee that is Martin Amis, and the overly theoretical Ian McEwan - Julian Barnes is the one whose prose is more immediately recognisable and more evidently his own.
When transferring such a voice to audio, it's obviously imperative that an equally distinctive voice is used. The one chosen for this recording, David Rintoul's, fits the bill very well: eloquent, and upper middle-class, just like Barnes's.
The stories themselves, like Barnes's previous short story collection, "The Lemon Table", all pivot around a theme. While "The Lemon Table" was obsessed with death, "Pulse" turns more to the approach to death and focuses it through the lens of relationships, many of which are newly established due to the death of a protagonist's previous partner.
It is in this territory - the relationship - that Barnes took his early, and has arguably taken all of, his literary steps. From 1982's "Before She Met Me" to 1991's "Talking in Over" and its 2000 sequel, "Love, etc", the quirks and trivialities of everyday, middle-class love have been his overriding theme, and it is the same attention to detail in chronicling everyday love that makes this collection sizzle; while his decision to shoot everything through with a tinge of impending or recent death adds poignancy, absurdity and humour.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Gaudeamus igitur
Brilliant, funny, particularly the conversations at Phil and Jenna's. Like all Julian Barnes' books, I only lend them to people I know will appreciate and love them as much as I... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Kristin EBBESEN
4.0 out of 5 stars Making sense(s) of the world
This characteristically resonant collection of stories about the mysteries of love and relationship between a man and a woman comes at you in two parts, explicitly delineated in... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Jeremy Walton
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Simply wonderful!
Published 28 days ago by Jens Schovsbo
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
As always--wonderfully written. Enthralling. Barnes never fails to intrigue.
Published 3 months ago by Dr. P M Hartley
4.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyed the book
Really enjoyed the book. Classic Barnes in many ways - sweet, sad - a sense of ending and a sense of things missed. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr W Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good indeed.
Published 4 months ago by Mrs Kate Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful stories
A complete mixed bag, full of rewards. A series of North London dinner party conversations which are completely convincing, some historical and memorable oddities and the last... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ms fenella Crichton
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
wrapped in dulcet tones for an evening .. i heard my own life ..
Published 12 months ago by Audrey Evermore
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine Fabrication
A patchwork quilt by a master craftsman. Yes, some patches are more colorful than others, but the embroidery is immaculate and there is not only skill but warmth. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Michael Farman
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Review
As always Julian Barnes has written a good collection of short stories, I particularly like the ones centred on a dinner party.
Published 22 months ago by Rod Parker
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