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From one of Britain’s greatest writers comes a brilliant collection of essays on the writers that have meant the most to him

In these 17 essays (plus a short story) the 2011 Man Booker Prize winner examines British, French and American writers who have meant most to him, as well as the cross-currents and overlappings of their different cultures. From the deceptiveness of Penelope Fitzgerald to the directness of Hemingway, from Kipling's view of France to the French view of Kipling, from the many translations of Madame Bovary to the fabulations of Ford Madox Ford, from the National Treasure Status of George Orwell to the despair of Michel Houellebecq, Julian Barnes considers what fiction is, and what it can do. As he writes in his preface, 'Novels tell us the most truth about life: what it is, how we live it, what it might be for, how we enjoy and value it, and how we lose it.'

When his Letters from London came out in 1995, the Financial Times called him 'our best essayist'. This wise and deft collection confirms that judgment.

Reviews

So elegant is Barnes’ prose that it’s easy to overlook his comic talents...this is Barnes cementing his reputation as a lively, curious reader as well as one of Britain’s best living writers.

Tom Cox, Sunday Times, Books of the Year

Engaging, eloquent, entertaining and erudite... There is a capacious generosity throughout this book, and I would defy anyone not to leave without feeling both better informed and better disposed... It is rare indeed for a collection of occasional pieces such as this to inspire feelings of profound thankfulness.

Stuart Kelly, Scotsman

A truly wonderful collection.

Sunday Times

The book relies on stylish intelligence and cool calm to accomplish its mastery… This is a coquettish book. Barnes flatters readers into feeling that they may be as shrewd, discriminating and attractive as he is.

Richard Davenport-Hines, Spectator

A devastatingly brilliant critic.

Olivia Laing, Prospect

As for the other essays, they all represent Barnes at his most engaged and, in his way, passionate... When he cares about something, you know it.

Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

The parallels between Barnes's essays and his fiction run much deeper. The Sense of an Ending asks to be read twice, once to listen to what the narrator has to say, and a second time to hear what he is busily avoiding or repressing, and many of these essays work in a similar way… His collection is also full of unexpected pleasures… Even the index is brimming with jokes. Such local surprises are typical of the book as a whole, which encourages readers to dip and rewards them for lingering.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Telegraph

There are many delightful biographical and bibliographical details among the literary criticism… Two recurring themes emerge from this anthology: France and death. Barnes is a keen observer of both lands.

Christian House, Independent on Sunday

A wonderfully learned and witty guide to how fiction operates.

Anthony Cummins, Metro

Man Booker Winner’s essays on fellow writers – magnificent.

Sunday Times Ireland

Julian Barnes is…punctilious. Collecting up here sundry reviews and introductions he has published since 1996 about writers who matter to him, he has unified them not just with a brief introduction asserting the priority of fiction.

Evening Standard

The index to Julian Barnes’s new collection of essays strikes a playful note, a whimsy meant to undercut any danger of pomposity in his writing.

Kate Webb, Times Literary Supplement

Julian Barnes reminds us what an exhilarating experience it can be to read a really good critic.

Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph

A compulsive page-turner.

Tim Adams, Observer

Barnes’s passion for his writers is infectious.

Ion Trewin, Sunday Express

Blissfully intelligent.

Roger Lewis, Financial Times

The temptation to turn away is powerful, but the rewards for resisting it are considerable. These essays combine a scholarly breadth of knowledge with a powerful sense of the absurdities of the creative life.

Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph

Through the Window is a wonderful and very interesting collection of essays that rewards close, and also measured, reading.

Brendan Wright, Nudge

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099578581

    November 1, 2012

    Vintage

    256 pages

    RRP $24.99

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  • EBook

    9781448139101

    November 1, 2012

    Vintage Digital

    256 pages

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