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3.9 out of 5 stars31
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Barnes was criticised when this book was published for using a gimmick, and for being lightweight reading.
The criticism is totally unfounded - this really is a quality book.
It is a classic menage a trois, told in the first person by all three characters. The different views of identical events is entertaining and sometimes hilarious, and the love story will be familiar to everyone.
The characters are very real and you have met all of them (or at least parts of all of them) in your real life, and this gives the book real resonance.
I have read it three times (its extremely rare for me to read any book more than once), and it is easy to open a page at random and read a few pages.
Its impossible to read this book without smiling.
Highly recommended!
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on 24 May 2001
For anyone who has ever trodden the dark road to infidelity, or indeed, found themselves the unfortunate victim of sexual betrayal - Julian Barnes captures perfectly the progressive realisation of breaking up, from confusion to sadness, desperation and bitterness. That said, he maintains throughout a dark humour which pulls the story along nicely and makes the characters all the more real.
Bound up in love, intellect and history, the well-observed characters narrate their own versions of the story, allowing room for differing perspectives and humorous, sometimes painfully intrusive insights.
Always utterly readable, Barnes's character-driven, unaffected style lends itself perfectly to this love-triangle scenario between three kindred spirits. At the same time beautifully simple and painfully complex.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 July 2009
Julian Barnes is a difficult author to love. He is one of the most inventive and innovative (in terms of style) writers that this country has seen for many years - but a bit like with Tom Stoppard, I get the sense that Barnes is highly intelligent and really wants you to know it. Having said that, I do enjoy the challenge of his books - without necessarily loving the outcome.

Talking it over is not one of his most complex though and is perhaps an easier read than some others. However, I found little to warm to in the three main characters. As each tells their stories, the message you are left with is "people see things differently". Hardly the most profound of arguments.

I did quite enjoy the book - it had a number of laugh out loud moments, and I felt that the style of three people telling the same story added rather than restricted the story - but ultimately I found it a bit empty at its heart.
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This is the story of a classic love triangle involving long-term friends Stuart, Oliver and Gillian, told in the form of monologues by each of them, addressed to the reader, with occasional interjections from minor characters. Stuart is worthy, sensible, but rather dull, working in a safe job in the finance industry. In contrast, Oliver is flamboyant, an underachiever and in love with his own voice. Throughout their lives, Oliver and Stuart have played a sort of game, where Oliver is the superior knowledgeable one and Stuart the dullard. Stuart is married to Gillian, but the happy triangle breaks up when Oliver falls in love with her, and eventually suspicion and infidelity lead to divorce and a rearrangement of the triangle when Oliver and Gillian marry. They move to France and Stuart starts a new life in New York.

The characters are very real, struggling to understand their lives that are not fully under their control. We see how each is changed by events. Stuart is initially optimistic and open, but at the close has become cynical and rather unattractive, even a bit sinister; Oliver is content with a low-level teaching job in rural France, living a quiet life with Gillian and their baby. Gillian, initially almost a bystander in the `game' between Stuart and Oliver, emerges as the architect of the relation and it is she who arranges things so that she and Oliver have to return to England.

The style has been criticized as `gimmicky', but I strongly disagree; it gives the perfect opportunity for each to describe their perspective of recent happenings in their lives, without interruption or the distraction of extraneous events. The result shows just how differently we can view the same event, and is often hilarious, sometimes moving. It is simple story superbly told and well worth reading.
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VINE VOICEon 1 October 2013
This is a story about love, friendship and betrayal which is told from the differing points of view of the three main characters, Oliver, Stuart and Gillian.

Oliver and Stuart are best friends since school. Gillian enters their lives when they are all young adults. Stuart and Gillian fall in love and get married, leaving Oliver feeling a little left out. Next follows a catastrophic breakdown of love and friendship, and the various characters reflect on those events as they proceed to deal with the new reality.

The format is one of alternate voices relating the events as each individual sees them. For instance, there is a paragraph headed .....STUART: in which Stuart gives his account of what is happening. This is followed by a paragraph headed....OLIVER: in which Oliver gives his version of the same events; then it's Gillian's turn, then Stuart again ..and on it goes. There are also some minor characters who come in from time to time to clarify and expand the developing story.

Each character has his or her own very distinctive voice and we come to know them almost personally, as is probably the writer's intent. The characters talk to the reader in a much more direct way than a narrator in a novel usually does. One gets the feeling that each character is addressing the reader directly, almost as if it were an actual conversation. And from time to time the characters talk even to the writer, which gives them an even more "these-are-real-people" feeling. It is all very effectively done and with a lot of wit and verbal dexterity, so that even though these are not happy events the author still allows us to smile as well as to feel the pain. A very good and very enjoyable piece of writing, in somewhat like the style of Martin Amis in terms of flair and flamboyant vocabulary and also quite like the format that Martin Amis used in his novel "Success".
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on 24 May 2001
For anyone who has ever trodden the dark road to infidelity, or indeed, found themselves the unfortunate victim of sexual betrayal - Julian Barnes captures perfectly the progressive realisation of breaking up, from confusion to sadness, desperation and bitterness. That said, he maintains throughout a dark humour which pulls the story along nicely and makes the characters all the more real.
Bound up in love, intellect and history, the well-observed characters narrate their own versions of the story, allowing room for differing perspectives and humorous, sometimes painfully intrusive insights.
Always utterly readable, Barnes's character-driven, unaffected style lends itself perfectly to this love-triangle scenario between three kindred spirits. at the same time beautifully simple and painfully complex.
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on 11 June 2006
The basic plot is a menage a trois, but the whole story is told from the point of view of each of the three characters of this novel. Julian Barnes writes expertly about love, portraying the story from various points of view with wit, irony, subtlety. I enjoyed this one immensely, a real insight into the workings of the human mind and, especially, the heart. Don't expect anything too intellectual this one is an entertaining weekend read that you will enjoy and certainly pick up again for its sincere humour and the irony offered on love.
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on 10 January 2015
I had enjoyed “Love etc.,” by the same author so I thought I should read this, which comes before it chronologically.
This book uses the same method of telling the story, that of allowing each character to “talk” to us as if we were having a dinner party conversation with them. I found this, as in the first book, a clever and innovative way of telling a story, despite the fact that it largely dispenses with conversation between characters and description of scenes.
As before, I found the characters immediately arresting and believable, but whereas in “Love etc.,” I found the story believable, in this book I found it totally incredible: that a woman who has been married such a short time should have her mind turned so quickly by someone she scarcely knows. Her ex-husband’s reaction is equally unbelievable.

The book does, however, have some interesting insights into relationships and marriage. and I began to find the characters shallow and irksome.
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on 12 March 2013
I bought Love,etc even before I finished this one ................ First time I read anything by Julian Barnes... He is everything other reviewers say positively about him . Most of all he is funny and warm .

His creations are ( a little bit ) stereotyped , but it works . Even the ones with ( supporting roles ) like Mme Wyat is wonderful . I liked them all and sympathized with all three . Barnes' idea of making them speak for themselves made the book even more enjoyable.

Love etc. also gets 4 stars and is really part two of , and inseperable from ; Talking It Over.
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on 1 December 2014
I thought it was about time I read some more Julian Barnes after some years. I must say I found it a very irritating read, and couldn't really be bothered to finish it, except to check that the (pretty obvious) outcome was as I had expected. I quite like Barnes as a writer, but this seems a bit of a pot-boiler, probably quite quickly written. I wonder what he thinks of it himself? One could get used to the multiple narrators, but this isn't exactly a ground-breaking device, and it's done in a desperately unsubtle way. I don't usually criticise books for being "contrived" -- after all, what novel isn't? -- but this one is clunky as hell. I suspect Barnes has a thing about marital infidelity -- he got pretty hot under the collar about it in Before She Met Me -- which is fair enough, but the attitudes to it he portrays are of the most banal and soapish predictability. Barnes is something of a sophisticate, and a Francophile one at that, but the emotions we have here are ploddingly English suburban and anything but sophisticated . Quite simply, there's nothing about this story that really matters or has much to tell us -- it just hasn't got anything important enough.
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