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42 Reviews
5 star:
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4 star:
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3 star:
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars England's greatest exponent of the novel of ideas
Julian Barnes has regularly turned out novels breaching the boundaries between fiction and essay, lolling around in ideas and dissecting them as an essayist would but through the machinations of plot.

The genius of the man lies in the fact that despite his leanings towards the essay his works exist as fully-fledged fictional works. He is arguably the greatest...
Published on 2 April 2009 by Ian Shine

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Old England had lost its history, and therefore, since memory is identity, had lost all sense of itself."
In this witty satire of English traditions, values, and national identity, the eccentric Sir Jack Pitman gathers a staff of "forward-thinking" consultants and young executives to create the ultimate theme park. Sir Jack intends to relocate (or recreate, if he must) all of England's important tourist sites in one location--the Isle of Wight--creating a "Disneyland" of...
Published on 14 May 2007 by Mary Whipple


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4.0 out of 5 stars Read it slowly, take your time, savour it, enjoy every word., 3 Jan 2000
This review is from: England England (Paperback)
This is a terrific book - not an easy read, but, like a Christmas dinner, a meal to be savoured. Enjoy Barnes' wonderful use of English. Look at each of the main characters individually, then see how they fit together. Treat the different scenes in the same way. When you've finished (Do go to the end - don't leave the last 10 pages unread) put it on your shelf and regard it as a friend. Then tackle "A Man in Full" and see how you get on with that!
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5.0 out of 5 stars heavenly, 25 Jun 2014
This review is from: England, England (Paperback)
better than silent meditation .. short stories to drop little lights into the dark corners of your subconscious .. yes we have all had these conversations .. at some time , somewhere .. but Julian barnes has put it into words for us all ..
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1.0 out of 5 stars This was awful, 8 Dec 2013
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Shoe addict (Braddan, Isle of Man Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: England, England (Kindle Edition)
I've never read any Julian Barnes books and if they're all like this, I won't be reading any more. I read just over a chapter and stopped. If I'd continued I might have made more sense of what the book what about but after the first chapter described the early years of a young girl with a distracted father, the second chapter leapt onto something completely different. I had no ideas who the characters were or how they related to the first chapter. It then moved onto very graphic amounts of sexual activity which I didn't find relevant, tasteful or interesting. Rubbish really.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, 17 Aug 2013
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This review is from: England, England (Kindle Edition)
I quite liked the storyline. In fact I ended up wistfully hoping for the Anglia so convincingly portrayed at the end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative perspective, 23 Aug 2007
This review is from: England England (Paperback)
In England, England, Julian Barnes inhabits similar territory to that of Unswaorth's Losing Nelson, but humorously. One character lists quintessences (there are more than five) of Englishness and many, perhaps most, are myth, by nature or association. And the purpose of identifying these icons of Englishness is to facilitate the construction, by Sir Jack Pitman on an eventually independent Isle of Wight, of an England Theme Park, packed with imitation and reproduction experience, collected together to take the strain out of tourism. Theme Park England becomes, itself, the quintessence (just one) of corporate identity and presence, with the products on offer being seen and marketed as "better" than the originals. It's all a great success until, that is, the imitations begin to adopt their assigned identities. Smugglers become a problem when they start smuggling. Dr. Samuel Johnson changes his name to - guess what? - Dr. Samuel Johnson and begins emulating the behaviour of the historical figure, along with a few of his own improvisations for added effect. The King thinks he's a king and Robin Hood and his Merrie Men yearn to be real outlaws. They are all in breach of contract. Through humour, the book asks questions about what is essential in national personal identity. The project identifies myths and reproduces them as second order experience which themselves become as capable of fulfilling the role of identity creation, definition and perpetuation as the real thing. So, by extension, the book questions how we create, assume and sustain cultures and their associated values.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, 14 Jan 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: England England (Paperback)
Maybe my expectations were just too high, but when I bought this book I thought the plot sounded hilarious. Kind of like a fictitious Bill Bryson. What a letdown! It was only because I was stuck on a long train journey with nothing else to do that I persevered. After the first 100 pages I started to warm to it just a little, but that quickly disappeared again. This is a parody to a parody: so ridiculous that it really doesn't tickle your senses anymore. I suppose it is an art to create characters that are so overdone and colourless at the same time, but frankly, I found it a waste of time.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little convoluted, 12 Feb 2012
This review is from: England, England (Paperback)
Maybe it is my fault rather than the author's, but I didn't find this book funny AT ALL - it didn't raise even a glimmer of a smile from start to finish. I really can't understand why it's billed as 'Wickedly funny' by the NY Times. It's an interesting idea, and well-written, but it didn't hold my interest unfortunately, and by the time I reached the last (short-ish) section, I was thoroughly bored and didn't really care what happened. The characters didn't really draw me in which is another reason why I lost interest in what happened to Martha or Paul or anyone else. Sadly not a success for me, but I can quite see that others might view this completely differently and get much more out of it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars England,England, 13 Feb 2009
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This review is from: England England (Paperback)
Typically immature Barnes satire which only amuse those with similar limited perception of Englishness. Cleverness provides a few amusing moments but lack of other faculties means that it rarely goes beyond being superficial.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious nonsense, 6 Oct 2002
This review is from: England England (Paperback)
It was a real struggle to stick with this book to the end. The combination of uninteresting characters and dull storyline put paid to any enjoyment that might have been found within its pages.
The book is basically the story of Martha, professional cynic. Each of the three parts of the book detail episodes in her life- the short first and last parts are about her childhood and old age respectively, and how her surroundings change with the passage of time - there may be some allegory to be drawn here but I wasn't interested enough to think about it more deeply. The longer middle part chronicles her involvement with the book's other main players- Sir Jack, egotistical self-made multimillionaire, and Paul, wimpy professional yes-man.
The first and last parts are the most interesting, and merit at least a couple of stars. The middle part is dull beyond belief. It's based around Sir Jack's magnum opus- a vast theme park based on the idea of 'England' which takes over the Isle of Wight and becomes more 'England' than 'England' itself, resulting in the downfall of the mainland after the island's independence. There's some heavy-handed philosophising about the nature of 'replica' and 'reality' with the involvement of some minor players to spin out Barnes' amateurish navel-gazing. It's impossible to really care about any of the characters and the theme park, which had the potential to be an interesting story by itself, merely becomes the background to the characters' tedious self-involvement. Even Sir Jack's unusual personal predilections don't hold the interest for any longer than it takes to read about them. On the whole, not recommended.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Contrived, self-important, wannabe-intellectual muddle, 2 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: England England (Paperback)
Take one great, great idea (England as a themepark). Take another great idea (a Baudrillardian take on said themepark). Add cardboard characters with no other purpose than to further a plot (which in turn only exist in order to further the two great ideas that the author cannot get to work in his context). I actually really wanted to like this - as I said: two great ideas - but it just ended up being a contrived, self-important, wannabe-intellectual muddle. It would've made a nice newspaper essay.
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England England
England England by Julian Barnes (Paperback - 18 Mar 2005)
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