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3.9 out of 5 stars
31
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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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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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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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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Not until I came to the end did I check the publication dates of this novel and John Mortimer's Dunster. Barnes has it. Talking It Over dates from 1991 and Dunster from 1992. Whether there was any communication between the authors regarding their stories, or whether the muse visited them independently, I have no idea at all. If the latter, the resemblance between the plot-lines is nothing less than startling. Safe and slightly dull financial professional has a showy and erratic best friend. Dull professional marries well, and wife deserts him for erratic and showy best friend, whom she then marries. The second marriage fails, partly through Aristotelian hamartia of best friend. The b/f gets his deserved comeuppance, this providing some cold and partial consolation to the wronged dull professional.
Julian Barnes is talented in the extreme. Not only is the book as well written as those familiar with his other work would expect, the plot gives him the opportunity to parade some of his own prejudices regarding the proper use of English, these prejudices being of course voiced by the characters in the book and not directly by the author (as if we would be fooled). In fact it is the persons of the drama who talk from first page to last, never the author for himself, and it is not just the three protagonists but the minor supporting cast as well. This device is very cleverly and adroitly used, again as we would expect, but I myself am sometimes inclined to find Barnes just a little too smart for his own good or for my appreciation as a reader. The start of the book is completely brilliant, for example, with the two lonely-hearts falling for each other, and the talkative Oliver playing gooseberry. His own discomfiture at being in this position and the way he talks too much in compensation are ultra-perceptive observation by the author, and I have the strong impression that he knows that himself. How the story then develops until the ousted Stuart finally becomes the unwanted presence that brings Oliver's downfall about is clever, original and convincing, or clever and original at least.
The whole book shows a sharp eye for character and situations, and an even sharper ear for how some kinds of people talk when they are forced to come to terms with their real thoughts and motivations. What I found very successful was the way Barnes keeps his distance from his characters and ensures that they are really talking for themselves rather than for himself. Every incident and every situation in this book challenges us to be judgmental, but if any judging is going to be done the author makes sure that we are left doing it. His style is also light, graceful and in the last degree skilful, and you will get through the book's 270 or so pages before you think.
Very readable, very persuasive and I suppose very recommendable. I gave Dunster 5 stars when I reviewed that, so I have no other option here.
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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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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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