Saturday, April 23, 2011

Flaubert's Parrot: Review

Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes could also be titled A Book in Search of a Plot. 'Cause if you're looking for're not gonna find it here. This is not exactly what I would call fiction. And it's not exactly what I would call biography or memoir. Some folks (in GoodReads and Visual Bookshelf Reviews) are calling it metafiction or postmodern. It's some kind of mix of all of that. Barnes pays tribute to Flaubert in all of his human shortcomings, artistry and genius.

Supposedly the narrator, Geoffrey Braithwaite--a retired physician who is also an obsessive amateur Flaubert scholar--sets out to uncover the truth about Flaubert. And, more importantly, the truth about the parrot that Falubert mentions in Un coeur simple. Is there a real parrot? If so which of the parrots that Braithwaite encounters in his journey is the real parrot?

This novel is about love and infidelity, language and life, hubris, pride and humility. It is about the ways we try to get to know other human beings and how we almost always fail to do so as thoroughly as we think.

Is this the kind of novel I really like? No. Would I have deliberately sat down to read it if I had truly known what it was going to be like? No. Am I glad I read it? You betcha. Difficult as it was for me to ease into, Barnes writes so well that I found the unexpected postmodern metafiction thoroughly enjoyable. Three stars out of five.

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