9780224031578 / 0224031570

Talking it Over


Publisher:Jonathan Cape Ltd



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About the book:

In Talking it Over, Julian Barnes, acclaimed author of Flaubert's Parrot and Metroland, turns his attention to a peculiarly English ménage a trois. Stuart and Oliver have been friends since school. Stuart is painfully aware that "We're rather different, Oliver and me, Oliver impresses people", especially women, so when shy, awkward Stuart meets and marries the beautiful Gillian, an uneasy threesome develops between the two old friends and the new woman in their lives. Gradually the flamboyant Oliver realises "I'm in love with Gillie. I'm amazed, I'm overawed, I'm poo-scared".

As the emotional and sexual complications of their lives begin to unravel, the three characters takes it in turns to deliver monologues and the unfolding action to the reader, leading to repeated backtracking and reassessment of what has actually happened on the part of the reader, as the characters offer different perceptions of the same events. The book's epigraph is "He lies like an eye-witness", which could be applied to all three characters, as Gillian increasingly falls for Oliver and Stuart sinks into misery and dejection. The shocking denouement fails to prevent a feeling that, however brilliantly Barnes draws his three characters, there is very little in them with which to sympathise or identify, leaving the novel feeling like a deft but rather empty exercise in style. Nevertheless, Barnes fans will enjoy Barnes' typically elegant and mordant style and wit. --Jerry Brotton

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