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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original perspective on "history"
What a great read! Original and quirky without the irritation of pretension. This novel manages to make you think about history and how it is presented apparently without effort (though I'm not at all sure it is without intention)yet avoids becoming too heavy or bogged down simply by changing the subject every chapter. Starting with story of Noah as never before seen...
Published on 20 Jan 2006

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition - poor editing
This is a review of the Kindle edition of Julian Barnes' book. The book itself I would give 4 stars.

I bought the kindle edition as an experiment to see about reading ebooks on holiday. My dissatisfaction is about the editing of the book. It appeared to have been scanned but not spell checked or proofed. So often 'I' was replaced by '/'. Many of the errors...
Published on 7 Sep 2010 by mtgf


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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original perspective on "history", 20 Jan 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters (Paperback)
What a great read! Original and quirky without the irritation of pretension. This novel manages to make you think about history and how it is presented apparently without effort (though I'm not at all sure it is without intention)yet avoids becoming too heavy or bogged down simply by changing the subject every chapter. Starting with story of Noah as never before seen and working his forward gives the author ample scope for choice which he deftly uses to gives us tales of a biblical, historical and personal nature apparently as the whim took him, their only connecting feature being repeated references to the ark, and curiously, to woodworm.
This said, I feel the author is trying to make us think about the way history is told, percieved and perhaps created.
If you fancy somehting engaging and different, you could do a lot worse than this book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An ironic and humourous critique of society., 11 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters (Paperback)
I was determined to hate this book. Being forced to read it for A Level has condemned many other books, but Julian Barnes caught me out. This is a truly remarkable novel and one which will get you thinking about yourself and the people around you. It mixes iconaclasm and irony to perfection. I defy anyone to dislike the modren day classic!
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every single person on Earth must read this book!, 15 Mar 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book as Barnes was not afraid to tackle controversial issues and did so in such a way you couldn't help but share his views. I have never known a writer to seriously look at how we treat animals (chap 3) and it pleased me that not eveyone saw them as just here for our own benefit. Out of the whole book, my favourite "chapter" has to be the half chapter, the parenthesis. It was so beautifully written, Barnes actually achieved with prose what he clamied was impossible. He wrote perfect "love prose" that stirred me to tears and smiles with each word. And for once it seems we see Barnes without his many masks! I recommend you read this book at once because it will frustrate, warm and educate you, make you realise things about yourself and others and see the history of the world in a whole new light. A MUST! It certainly changed my life.
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42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No half measures, 3 Aug 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters (Paperback)
Julian Barnes is a former lexicographer and journalist whose novels have earned that most elusive cachet - critical acclaim from both the English and French side of the Channel. His 1984 work, "Flaubert's Parrot", is part travelogue, part literary criticism: its narrator, Geoffrey Braithwaite, journeys through France and his own autobiographical detail, painting a novel in a pastiche of narrative forms.
Barnes felt he had found a substantial vehicle in Braithwaite and considered having him write a guide to the bible - an acerbic, agnostic travelogue through its pages. Instead, he developed "A History of the World in 10 Chapters", beginning with the conceit of seeing history as re-beginning with Noah's Ark.
Barnes' first chapter presents the unexpurgated story of the Ark. How could one small ship have carried the Earth's vast variety of animal life? He has Noah as admiral of a flotilla of ships. The bible, here, is propaganda, fudging the truth in favour of a good story. He creates a paradigm for historical enquiry: all history is partial, is told from a particular perspective; all history involves editing out what the historian sees as chaff; if the bible doesn't give you the whole story, who can you believe. History, then, is a perspective, never a fundamentalist truth.
History, of course, is written by the victors, is written from the perspective of those with the power to claim that their vision of the truth is the only coherent, logical one. While the image of all formal world histories is that the author has encapsulated the truth of human life, Barnes presents history as a personal interpretation. His history of the Ark is written from the perspective of the powerless. It is the voice of the dispossessed, made no less emphatic by its fictional form.
Barnes goes on to emphasise that while historians present their material as a logical continuity, history is, in fact, a series of discontinuities and conflicting perspectives. He leaps straight into a second maritime chapter, its narrator being a guide on a cruise liner, taking tourists on history tours around the Mediterranean. History, here, belongs to those who have the time, money and curiosity to buy it in packaged form. The vessel is hijacked by terrorists, and the tour guide is left to explain his own role in this little footnote to history.
Surely law can establish truth? Barnes now explores a medieval court case, reducing the pursuit of truth to so much sophistry, to be bought and sold according to political will and power. He reintroduces the Ark's stowaways - can they claim a god-given purpose if their only purpose seems to be the destruction of man's creations?
A young woman recognises that all life is interconnected, that there is a world ecology which links the lies about Santa Claus to the lies about nuclear power. She seeks escape to sea and pursuit of an island paradise ... only to be haunted by the false fantasies of her dreams and her delusions that she can find safety.
Barnes returns again and again to various cultural distinctions between the 'clean' and the 'unclean', who shall live, who shall die, who shall have power, who shall be consumed?
He exhumes the story behind a famous French painting of a Napoleonic shipwreck, posing the question of how you turn disaster into art, and thence into triumph. Art, too, presents a snapshot of history, capturing a moment. But Barnes demonstrates that art, like history, can be critiqued, can be deconstructed, can be shown to be only an opinion, an illusion rather than a certainty.
History, then, is an anachronistic concept. It is a claim to know god's hand. But if even the bible, the supposed word of god, is partial and partisan, who can claim to know the hand of god?
A Victorian lady ascends Mount Ararat in search of the remains of the Ark. A survivor of the Titanic is tormented by a sceptical youth. Human remains are found on Ararat. Could this be Noah?
Barnes spins together, if not a series of short stories then a melange of essays. He treats history as an assemblage of information and constructs a novel as a juxtaposition of ideas. Its an incisive and disorienting experience. As a reader, you search for themes and continuity. The narrative is accessible to the reader only in the way that history is accessible to the archaeologist. You have to dig for it then make sense of it.
This is a superbly funny, provocative work. Despite its intellectual sophistication, it is remarkably accessible. It is a good read, itself an ironic commentary on the pretensions, cerebral flatulence, and impenetrability of so much history, or, indeed, art or literary criticism.
He concludes with a 'half' chapter, a conclusion in which he sets aside his own thoughts in parenthesis, delivering a personal vision of heaven as a statement that if history is presented as an attempt to understand the past, should we not be attempting to understand the future? Should we not be trying to decide where we are going, how we want humanity to evolve? It's a plea to put politics and overt values back at the heart of history rather than to pretend that it represents some sort of neutral stance, some sort of expansive balance.
And he's leaving you, as reader, to add your own parenthetical addendum to the novel, to piece together your own values and perceptions and those excerpts from your own personal history which have shaped who you think you are. Exciting. Stimulating. Highly entertaining.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition - poor editing, 7 Sep 2010
This is a review of the Kindle edition of Julian Barnes' book. The book itself I would give 4 stars.

I bought the kindle edition as an experiment to see about reading ebooks on holiday. My dissatisfaction is about the editing of the book. It appeared to have been scanned but not spell checked or proofed. So often 'I' was replaced by '/'. Many of the errors would have been picked up by a spell checker others I would guess would be common misprints from scanning that could be systematically identified. I had the paperback from many years back and checking when I came back confirmed that it contained a reproduction of the Gericault 'Raft of the Medusa' as an illustration. It was a pity that the ebook omitted this.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really interesting take on history, 2 Aug 2006
By 
Mrs. Suzanne Ravenhall (Fareham, Hants) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters (Paperback)
We all take history to be factual; well, I did anyway! Then I grew up a bit, and realised that there are two sides to every story. Julian Barnes cleverly presents a third viewpoint - one that might have happened, set in a brilliantly quirky and yet astonishingly believable perspective. I was so taken with the chapter on the Wreck of the Medusa, I went to visit the actual painting in the Louve, Paris, and marvelled at how Barnes had come up with his version of events. Well worth a read. In fact, read it two or three times!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Emily, 13 Nov 2013
A good book. A reading group choice so plenty to talk about! Enigmatic and very well written. Often funny and definitely one to ponder when done.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars hard going, 2 Feb 2013
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I read this for book club, and made myself get to the end. I found it very easy to put down, and only enjoyed the chapter about heaven
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and clever, 26 Mar 2010
By 
Oracle - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
"They put the behemoths in the hold along with the rhinos, the hippos and the elephants. It was a sensible decision to use them as ballast; but you can imagine the stench."

This has to be my favourite opening of any novel and sets the tone for an inventive and original book. A first line and title like this sets a hard act to follow, but Barnes certainly lives up to his opening.

A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapter isn't a traditionally structured novel. It takes the form of 11 short stories, each based around themes of relevance to a major period of history and sharing motifs of ships and religious folly. The first chapter, about a stowaway on Noah's Ark, is my favourite but several of the others reach the same excellent standard. The concluding chapter also stuck in my mind with it's disturbing depiction of a heaven where everyone is treated equally (presumably a critique of communism).

This is an unashamedly intellectual book which I would heartily recommend, particularly to anyone who enjoyed the similar inventive structure of Cloud Atlas.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, 1 Oct 2000
By A Customer
This book is filled with irony from the opening chapter of Noah and Ark. The rest of the book tackles important themes in our lives like love, death and life. I couldn't put this down and despite having to study it at school i thoroughly enjoyed it. Anyone who is looking for a thought provoking book should definitely buy this. Masterclass
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A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters
A History of the World in 101/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes (Paperback - 18 Mar 2005)
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