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on 11 November 2013
Love etc is JB's follow-up to Talking It Over - the blackly comic love-triangle tale of the bizarre lives of Gillian, Stuart and Oliver (plus a a few others). The fly-on-the-wall docu-interviews wear a bit thin in this second book but the bleak pscho rom-com has intellectual Tom Sharpe credentials. Barnes's prose is always crisp and entertaining and, despite flogging the same format, his insights in the human condition remain oddly compelling.
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on 21 September 2016
Brilliant, serious and funny at the same time.
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on 9 December 2013
I had not bargained for this. First American edition, hard cover with special edge cuttings.

I will keep it in my library and won't part with it.

Thank you

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on 12 June 2012
This is a follow up to Talking it Over and is written in the same style moving chapter by chapter between the voices of Gillian, Oliver and Stuart and takes place some ten years later. As a reader it is delightful to find Stuart has succeeded in life and not surprisingly Oliver hasn't...or has he as he is the one with Gillian. I love the way Barnes successfully seperates such different voices and views of what is happening - that is so true to life - and we get the psychiatrist's view and even Gillian's dad makes a brief appearance in this book. As often is the case with Barnes all is not exactly as it seems at first. Although I wasn't sure about this method of writing a book - and still probably wouldn't rush to read another written in this style - it is effective for this sorry love story. It always amazes me how we all view events and even arguments differently and the Barnes' genius is in revealing this simply and effectively and making us think about how we view our own lives differently to others - as his drama begins to fizz towards its climax.
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This book is a sequel to the earlier volume `Talking it Over', and to understand `Love etc.' it is almost essential to have read the former. There we are introduced to the three main characters, Oliver, Stuart and Gillian, and how their lives interact over a period of years. At the end of `Talking it Over', Gillian, formerly married to Stuart, is now married to Oliver, and after a brief time living in France has return to England with her husband and their two children. In the interval, Stuart relocated to New York and started a new life.

Ten year have now past and Stuart, divorced from his American wife, has returned to England. He is no longer a rather weak, colourless individual, but is more decisive and now runs his own successful organic food distribution company. His love for Gillian is unabated and he contacts her again to `rescue' her from what he sees as a mistaken marriage to Oliver. He insinuates himself into their lives, letting them rent the former marital home, and even gives Oliver a job. Although Gillian is initially resistant to these events she comes to accept them, particularly as she is the sole breadwinner with her picture restoration work. Oliver slowly sinks into a deep depression as he realises that Stuart is not going to financially support his unrealistic `projects', and his suspicions about Stuart's motives and Gillian's loyalty deepens.

The format is the same as used successfully in `Talking it Over': a series of monologues by the main characters spoken to the reader, supplemented by ones from supporting characters, such as Gillian's mother and her art restoration assistant. These soliloquies are utterly realistic. Through them we again see how each interprets their past and present lives often in very different ways. It is almost inevitable that things will not end well. Indeed they do not, although Gillian and Stuart present the interpretation of the event that provokes this in starkly contrasting ways. There is no absolute truth. At the end we are left to make up our own minds about the nature and importance of love, and the wisdom or not of trying to rekindle a former love after so long.
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on 3 June 2013
Just getting back into reading and chose this and its companion by chance. Great style and observation of human nature and relationships. Easy to dip into and pick up the thread.
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on 12 April 2013
Julian Barnes is now one of my favourite authors . He writes about relationships in a way that is both funny and knowing .
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on 4 January 2012
Another great book from Julian Barnes, but it is a bit short. The back and forth style grates after a while, but it's still a good read. He really is one of the best writers in the English language.

Keith J.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 4 October 2016
I found Talking it Over interesting, enjoyable and clever. Unfortunately this sequel is shapeless, fragmented and over-clever.

In Talking it Over, I found the pretentious pontificating of Oliver tolerable and sometimes entertaining. In Love etc I found it tedious. As a quick example, this is the pompous way that Oliver says something which, translated into normal English would be "Is he rich? While having a drink with him I didn't ask about his life in America."

"Is he replete with the long green? While quaffing and quenching with him I did not out of sheer tact enquire too subcutaneously about his sojourn in the land of the free."

The book is cleverly written and at times insightful but much of the time it comprises armchair psychology with a veneer of wit disguising an absence of wisdom underneath. To help you decide if you will like it, here are a few examples of the style:

"Being in love makes you liable to fall in love. Isn't that a terrible paradox? Isn't that a terrible truth?"

"It is not so much that I do not want, as that I do not want to want. I do not desire to desire. And I will say this. I am perhaps now as happy as in the yaers when I did desire. I am less occupied, less preoccupied but no less happy, or no less unhappy. Is this perhaps my punishment from those Gods who no longer exist? To realise that all the heart trouble - is that the word? - which I endured, all that searching and all that pain, all that expectation, all those actions, were not after all, as I thought, relevant to happiness."

"There are many theories as to what it is that men marry - their sexual destiny, their mother, their doppelganger, their wife's money, but how about the notion that what they truly seek is their conscience. God knows most men aren't able to locate it in the traditional seat, somewhere close to the heart and the spleen, so why not acquire it as an accessory, like a tinted sun-roof or metal-spoked steering wheel? Or might it alternatively be that this is not what men truly seek but what marriage of necessity turns women into."

Here is one I like but it isn't original. It is a quote from Alexandre Dumas.

"The chains of marriage are so heavy that sometimes it needs three people to carry them."
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on 5 July 2014
This is one of those books that sort of creeps up on you. I wasn’t sure of the style to begin with. Written as a series of internal monologues there is no real story, the reader is simply given an insight on each protagonist’s reactions to a situation which develops throughout the book. After the first two chapters though I was hooked and could scarcely put it down. It is acutely observed, beautifully written. It made me think about love, marriage and relationships in a way I never have before.

The book is, in fact, a sequel to “Talking It Over”, (which I haven’t read) but the “story”, such as it is, stands alone. We have three main protagonists: Gillian, Oliver and Stuart. In the prequel Gillian and Stuart were married until his best friend Oliver “stole her away.”

The story begins ten years later when Stuart unexpectedly re-enters the lives of Gillian and Oliver. In the intervening period he has re-married and divorced, due to his second wife’s insecurity over Gillian. In every other way, though, he has been more successful than Oliver: he runs a profitable business, drives a better car, looks fitter and younger. Oliver and Gillian’s marriage has produced two children but is “comfortable” rather than happy.

Amongst other voices we hear are Stuart’s second wife, Gillian’s mother and Gillian’s assistant Ellie.

I won’t spoil it by telling you how the situation develops, but I will say there were a few implausibilities, like the way Oliver readily accepts Stuart’s offer of a job in his firm.

The book reminded me of a French film: a slice of life with no real beginning and no ending, the reader left to wonder for themselves how it might evolve. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know.

Although I like books about relationships It’s not the sort I would normally choose to read. I prefer more of a story. The only reason I read it all was because my daughter left it behind when she had been to stay one weekend. I would definitely recommend it though, and plan to read the prequel as soon as possible.
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