Thursday, January 26, 2006

Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes

Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people's lives, never your own. In Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes, p 168

With all the news about highly fictionalized biographies and memoirs in the news, it is interesting to find a book posing as fiction that could with a few changes be considered for the library's reference collection. The book is Flaubert's Parrot by the British author Julian Barnes, which includes much about Gustave Flabert, 1821-1880, author of Madame Bovary. The book includes several chronologies of Flaubert's life, a bestiary regarding the animals in his life and writings, profiles of his friends, family, and lovers, and even a mock exam to give to Flaubert students. There are many quotable passages taken from Flaubert, and much is said about the parrot.

Readers have to be patient to find the storyline. Geoffrey Braithwaite, a doctor obsessed with Flaubert, is the amateur assembling all this reference material. It is what he does to keep from despairing over the death of his unfaithful wife. It takes him on many trips to France.

Julian Barnes has taken a very unconventional approach in writing Flaubert's Parrot, but it works. I now want to know more. I might even try again to read Madame Bovary.

Barnes, Julian. Flaubert's Parrot. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985. ISBN 039454272x

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