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Staring At The Sun Paperback – 5 Nov 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (5 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8129115832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099540090
  • ASIN: 0099540096
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 347,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"None of Mr Barnes's previous work... has quite prepared us for the bewildering maturity of Staring at the Sun...it dazzles in depth" (Harpers & Queen)

"Brilliant... Mr Barnes's work is at the forefront of a new internationalization of British fiction" (New York Times)

"A remarkable and risk-taking book, breezily philosophical and light-fingered, funny and also genuinely affecting in that it touches both the heart and the head" (Glasgow Herald)

Book Description

'Teasing fullness, wit, incisiveness, gentleness and generosity' Times Literary Supplement

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback
Whether it is actually possible for the pilot of a plane changing altitude rapidly during the dawn to see the sun rise twice I don't actually know, although it sounds very unlikely to me. However that is the theme with which this story starts and ends. The start and end are very neatly tied together, and so indeed are all the various strands of the plot. Clever and deft workmanship of this kind is what I have learned to expect by now after experiencing five novels by Julian Barnes, and it is the sort of thing that leaves me unable to make up my mind whether I like his work or not.

After at least the last two novels I vowed to myself that I would never read another page by him because he is such a clever-clogs, and good heavens does he know it. For all that, whenever my eye lights on something bearing his name I keep picking it up, because he is just so exceptionally talented. He is talented as a writer, as a novelist and as an essayist. You will find coherent and convincing portraiture in this book, hung around the 100-year life of Jean, but really no less persuasive in the depiction of Leslie, Gregory, Michael, Tommy Prosser, Rachel and even Olive. That would form a good basis for any novel, but until near the end of the book I kept wondering whether the plot-line was really a device to string together a series of essays by the ultra-intellectual Mr Barnes. The lengthy sequence on what it must be like to die in an airliner crash is a rather blatant intrusion on the general narrative, but being the craftsman he is Barnes can get away with even this as being related in a tenuous way to the overall theme.

The reason why he can do that is that he keeps it skilfully vague and uncertain what the overall theme actually is.
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By Thomas Douglas TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Breaktakingly good prose, from a true master.
A book that tells the 100 year story of one woman, taking us from the nineteen twenties to the twenty twenties. It is enormously sympathetic. The book poses many questions about life, and credits the reader with the intelligence to find his or her own answers.
Moving, and ultimately quite melancholy, it is the sort of book that will leave you feeling emotionally richer.
There is a review quote on the back of the book which says "Undoubtedly much too good to win the Booker prize"
No kidding.
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Format: Paperback
it follows the life of a young woman from the II WW up to her last days in the following Century. A book that leaves one, though slightly melancholy, with a warm feeling inside. It's like an old house, full of unexplored rooms and every room having its own particular smell, story and mood. Jean, the main character grows up and introduces us to an array of other characters. From a fighter pilot that saw the sun rise twice; her cowardly or is he brave?, Uncle Leslie and his wonderful tricks; up to her own somewhat insipid son, who dissatisfied with his insipid life contemplates suicide. The book spans nearly a hundred years and though it is written in the last quarter of the last century Mr. Barnes creates a believable 2000 and beyond. Even the role of computers and a sort of World Wide Web is foreseen in his well crafted book; well worth a read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I wish I had read Phil O'Sofa's review before I started to read it. I agree with his every word. I found it a hook to hang adolescent musings on God and death. At best slightly amusing, specially for a retired IT practitioner.
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Format: Paperback
One of the blurbs on the back says this novel is 'much too good to win the Booker Prize', but while it is undoubtedly true that some very mediocre books have won the Booker, this statement is as misleading as most back-cover blurbs.
Ostensibly this is about the 100-year life of Jean Serjeant, though in fact we flit rapidly through most of her life, touching briefly on a friendship with a fighter pilot in 1941, then her lousy marriage to a policeman, then her relationship with her son, all of it fairly cursory. Uncle Leslie keeps popping up, but not for any obvious reason.
This isn't the first book I've read where the plot appears to be a flimsy framework from which to hang a few otherwise unrelated ideas, but it is one of the most obvious cases. The author wants to say something about tourism in China, so he has Jean take a holiday there. This also provides an excuse to make a few comments on flying and death. Barnes wants to say something about the Grand Canyon, so he has her go there too. He obviously doesn't want to say much about most of her life, so we skip huge swathes of it, leaping across decades in a matter of a seconds.

Right from the beginning of the book, with the fighter pilot watching the sunrise twice by diving 10,000 feet, I'm thinking, okay so what's the significance of that? Where is it leading? I'm expecting some great coming together later on, some point to it all, like the bit where Jean can't get pregnant for 20 years, but then suddenly she does, a year after her periods stop. Surely there's a point to that? But no, apparently not. It's just a random event. Perhaps that is the point, that things happen for no reason. But in a novel we like the dots to get joined up a bit. In this story they never do.
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