In Talking it Over
, Julian Barnes, acclaimed author of Flaubert's Parrot
, turns his attention to a peculiarly English ménage a trois
. Stuart and Oliver have been friends since school. Stuart is painfully aware that "We're rather different, Oliver and me, Oliver impresses people", especially women, so when shy, awkward Stuart meets and marries the beautiful Gillian, an uneasy threesome develops between the two old friends and the new woman in their lives. Gradually the flamboyant Oliver realises "I'm in love with Gillie. I'm amazed, I'm overawed, I'm poo-scared".
As the emotional and sexual complications of their lives begin to unravel, the three characters takes it in turns to deliver monologues and the unfolding action to the reader, leading to repeated backtracking and reassessment of what has actually happened on the part of the reader, as the characters offer different perceptions of the same events. The book's epigraph is "He lies like an eye-witness", which could be applied to all three characters, as Gillian increasingly falls for Oliver and Stuart sinks into misery and dejection. The shocking denouement fails to prevent a feeling that, however brilliantly Barnes draws his three characters, there is very little in them with which to sympathise or identify, leaving the novel feeling like a deft but rather empty exercise in style. Nevertheless, Barnes fans will enjoy Barnes' typically elegant and mordant style and wit. --Jerry Brotton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Few writers think and talk so beguilingly. This book is wonderfully funny. And intelligent. And moving" (Independent on Sunday
"Quicksilver clever and allusive" (The Times
"Scintillating... It's funny, quick on the draw, and knows when to soften the gaze. It reads so smoothly, the pages seem to flip themselves" (Observer
"A writer of rare intelligence. He catches the detail of contemporary life with an uncanny forensic skill... He is, as always, a superb ironist, a connoisseur of middling, muddling, modern England" (London Review of Books
"A wonderfully wistful and funny novel" (Daily Telegraph
--This text refers to the