England England Paperback – 18 Mar 2005
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Julian Barnes's England, England is a sharp-edged satire of Englishness at the end of the 20th century. The real England is failing--her empire lost, her aspirations to greatness subsiding, her history fading. Megalomaniacal entrepreneur Sir Jack Pitman hits upon the idea of creating an altogether superior, theme-park version of the original on the Isle of Wight (renamed simply the Island). His creative team includes Martha Cochraine, whose own childhood disappointments and unfulfilled dreams Barnes unfolds to the reader in the opening chapters. For a brief moment it looks as if able Martha will outsmart the ruthless Sir Jack, assisted by her grateful, bespectacled lover Paul Harrison (the operation's "ideas catcher"). But this is fantasy, so humble Paul betrays Martha (it would never do for the feisty woman to win after all). She retreats to the real England of faded glory, nostalgic folklore and regret.
In one section of this short novel the theme-park Dr Johnson talks entirely in direct quotations from his distinguished 18th-century counterpart, before being judged insufficiently convincing. The real, we understand, is less compelling than the fake. There are so many cultural allusions per page that the head of even the most enthusiastic English culture snob will spin. --Lisa Jardine
"Runs at glorious full tilt...delightful stuff" (Independent)
"A brilliant, Swiftian fantasy" (The Economist)
"There is no more intelligent writer on the literary scene. In this novel, he is also moving. He has written nothing more poignant and enticing" (John Carey Sunday Times)
"Not only a very funny satire about England and the world... He has also skilfully dissected the discomforting ways in which we have all grown to accept, and even depend on, illusion" (Wall Street Journal)
"Few writers think and talk so beguiling" (Zoë Heller Independent on Sunday) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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 English novelist of the past twenty years and has a much more natural handling of the vagaries of plot and character than most of his contemporaries.
In 'England, England' he takes on the idea of utopia/dystopia but with his usual comic touch. The plot revolves around a businessman's attempts to seal his legacy by creating a sort of mini-England on the Isle of Wight. The island holds everything that foreigners think constitutes England, from Robin Hood to Fish and Chips and even a robin in the snow, and serves as a kind of amusement park come tourist haven, enabling people to experience the breadth of English history and geography in a matter of days.
In terms of ideas Barnes covers capitalism, the real vs the imitation, British tabloids, love, sex and fetishism.
It's one of his more unconventional novels and I probably wouldn't recommend it for a first time reader of Barnes (try 'Talking It Over' instead), but it is probably the novel of his that will be looked at most in academic circles and on university courses and will be read alongside '1984' and 'Brave New World' in the future as a study of utopias/dystopias.
'England, England' is a fine book, and there's more in there than you might think.
Barnes adopts a more 'conventional' novelist's style in this book, though there are a few appearances of more 'Parrot'-like prose. Barnesian analysis of reality, history, knowledge, belief and human emotion continues unabated,though it would seem that for some it gets in the way of 'plot', a typically un-Barnesian vehicle.
If philosophical debate is your thing, then Barnes is your man. If you didn't like this book, then come back to it after dabbling in '10.5 Chapters' and 'Metroland', and it should make more enjoyable reading. If you don't like either of those, pick up a Bill Bryson book and chuckle along with the masses...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Barnes does it again. Highly amusing with brilliantly drawn characters. Loved itPublished 10 months ago by Mr. A. J. Blanche
This is a book that reminds me of many England cricket matches – it starts with real promise, slows down in the middle and ends up with you wondering what all the excitement at the... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Stewart M
better than silent meditation .. short stories to drop little lights into the dark corners of your subconscious .. yes we have all had these conversations .. Read morePublished on 25 Jun. 2014 by Audrey Evermore
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. Read morePublished on 8 Dec. 2013 by Shoe addict
I quite liked the storyline. In fact I ended up wistfully hoping for the Anglia so convincingly portrayed at the end.Published on 17 Aug. 2013 by heartsease
I haven't got round to reading this book yet, but it arrived in good condition, and as it is about the Island where my ancestors on one side of my family were born, I am sure I am... Read morePublished on 9 Aug. 2013 by Susan Oliver
I purchased this book for a study course of what it mens to be 'English'.
The characters are less than loveable. Read more
I did not like the whole virtual reality concept here. I can see what the author was getting at but did not appreciate either style or content although there were some redeeming... Read morePublished on 12 Dec. 2012 by Mrs. R. Rosenberg