Cover Image: Elizabeth Finch

Elizabeth Finch

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Elizabeth Finch, from Julian Barnes examines the relationship between the narrator, Neil, and his one-time professor. The novel explores the problems of memory and biography and asks how well can we ever know a person–especially a multi-faceted, private person such as Elizabeth Finch.

Elizabeth Finch teaches an adult education course, “Culture and Civilisation.” The students range in age from 20-40, and there’s a great deal of speculation about Elizabeth, a curious woman of contrasts, and her private life. Neil notes that it easy “to stray into fantasy.” As a lecturer/professor, Elizabeth Finch, or EF as Neil later refers to her, is challenging, yet she provides a reading list which is “optional” and notes “I may well not be the best teacher, in the sense of the one most suited to your temperament and cast of mind.” That last sentence, which seems so casually spoken on the first day, turns out to have great significance.

She appeared to have settled on her look some time ago. It could still be called stylish: another decade, and it might be antique or, perhaps vintage. In summer, a box-pleated skirt, usually navy; tweed in winter. Sometimes she adopted a tartan or kiltish look with a big safety pin (no doubt there’s a special Scottish word for it). Obvious money was spent on blouses, in silk or fine cotton, often striped, and in no way translucent. Occasionally a brooch, always small and, as they say, discreet, yet somehow refulgent. She rarely wore earrings (were her lobes even pierced? now there’s a question). On her left little finger, a silver ring which we took to be inherited, rather than bought or given. Her hair was a kind of sandy grey, shapely and of unvarying length. I imagined a regular fortnightly appointment. Well, she believed in artifice, as she told us more than once. And artifice, as she also observed, was not incompatible with truth.

The novel can be sliced into 3 sections: the introduction (and departure) of Elizabeth Finch, the middle section which is Neil’s long-delayed student essay on Julian the Apostate, and the final section which covers the end of Elizabeth’s career and Neil’s conclusions about his former professor.

I loved the first part of the book as Neil charts his relationship with Elizabeth Finch. Sometimes it’s the hard to define relationships that are the most interesting. EF rather uncannily reminded me of a professor who later became a friend for several decades, and so when I read that Neil intended to become EF’s biographer, I was fascinated. Unfortunately, when Neil delivers his student essay as some sort of post-death tribute to Elizabeth Finch, this entire middle section threw me in the Slough of Despond. I probably wouldn’t have minded reading about Julian the Apostate if I’d sought a book on the subject, but as is, the plot seems hijacked…no … abandoned. In the final section, Neil returns to the subject of EF and the novel revives as he discovers that he was not the only student who maintained a relationship with this very private, exacting person. Meanwhile, Neil tries to excavate details of EF’s private life and finally talks to a former student who has an entirely different opinion of the professor. Ultimately, we are left with more questions than answers, and the mystery of a professor who became one of the most significant people in Neil’s life, while another student remembers her as rather ordinary. What does that say about our perceptions, our biases, our memories?

Review copy.
Was this review helpful?
I'll be the outlier and say that this one might just be more work than pleasure.  Barnes has written a novel which will no doubt receive much praise but really- how many really liked it?  It's the story of Neil, who is entranced by Elizabeth Finch when he takes an adult ed class from her.  They meet periodically in the years after but not enough that Neil is not shocked when she leaves him her papers.  The middle section of this is an essay on Julian the Apostate, which while educational, wasn't what I was expecting.  It's worth a read- it's short- but know that you might struggle a bit with that essay.  Thanks to netgalley for the ARC.  For fans of Barnes and literary fiction.
Was this review helpful?
I’m always amazed how Julian Barnes is packing so much strange emotions and provoking thoughts into such sort books and make me question even the most basic things with simplest questions. This time around he uses Elizabeth Finch as a perfect medium to achieve this goal. I got so many Sense of an sending vibes from this story that I knew we are going to go down the rabbit hole of philosophy and religion.

As we are seeing news about nations struggling to protect their border and identity, the following passage made me think: “"Ernest Renan, the great nineteenth-century French historian and philosopher, once wrote
the following: 'Getting its history wrong is part of being a nation.' Note, if you please, what he did not say. He did not say, 'Getting its history wrong is part of becoming a nation.' This would also be a true remark, but one considerably less provocative. We are familiar with the foundation myths on which countries rely, and which they furiously propagate. Myths of heroic struggle against an occupying power, against the tyranny of aristocracy and Church, struggles which produced martyrs whose spilt blood waters the delicate plant of liberty. But Renan is not talking about this. He says that getting its history wrong is part of being a nation. In other words, in order to believe in what we think our nation stands for, we must constantly, every day, in small acts or thoughts and large, deceive ourselves, as we constantly rehearse our comforting bedtime stories. Myths of racial and cultural superiority. Belief in benign monarchs, infallible popes, and honest government. Assumptions that the religion into which vou are born, or have chosen to adopt, just happens to be the one sect which is true among hundreds of heathen creeds and apostasies out there.”

I invite you to fall into Barnes’ trap and finish this in one sitting, then go ahead and pick up some philosophy books to clean those spiderwebs from the corners of your brain.
Was this review helpful?
Julian Barnes can be a unique taste for readers. I happen to enjoy his blend of fact and fiction, finding it both challenging and amusing. Elizabeth Finch certainly falls into this category for me.

Neil, as an older student (31) returning to his studies, is fascinated by his professor, Elizabeth Finch. The fact that she is truthful (he thinks), confident, and follows her own standards, creates a desire in him to engage with her whenever possible. This continues throughout her life, and after her death, he discovers that she has left her papers entirely to him. This novel is a rumination on what that responsibility entails.

Barnes, in his combining of fact and fiction, has wonderful transgressions that are enlightening, and at times, amusing. This novel, which uses a few long sections on Julian the Emperor (the author's namesake - not a coincidence, was a bit long, even for me, but such history - whether Barnes" or Finch's, tongue-in-cheek or true analytical thought, was intriguing, and I can't fault it. The end section is worth waiting for, so please carry on and finish it.

Once again, I'd love to give some quotes, but will wait for its publication to do so. Just remember, as you read it, that what you think the book is about is not necessarily what the author is trying to achieve.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada and to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I come to this novel, by one of my favorite writers, as a student who never got through a year of school from about fifth grade on without having a crush on some teacher. All without any harm done, I hasten to say. I was willing to be engaged by this odd, dry sort-of memoirish narrative of a middle-aged man with a serious crush on his teacher. Plus I know that Julian Barnes will always feed me some unexpected observation, revelation, or just a choice of words that will startle and delight me. No disappointment here: by page 9, I had to look up the lovely word “refulgent.” Showoff. 
     Thirty-something narrator Neil takes an adult education class in “Culture and Civilisation,” taught by the eponymous Elizabeth Finch. Neil presumes she is an “independent scholar,” but Neil presumes a lot. There is much distancing, projection, guesswork: “If you had dared to ask [her],” “of course, she would have said…,” “who would dare to speak?” Barnes tries to “show” us EF, as he calls her, with details of her shoes, stockings (“you couldn’t imagine her in beachwear,” though clearly he has tried), jewelry, haircut, the existence of a West London apartment in which he “never set foot”; the way she smokes, and so on. She speaks entirely without notes, in fully-thought-out paragraphs, and is prone to aphoristic pronouncements, like “artifice is not incompatible with truth,” or “getting our history wrong is part of being a nation.”  Neil is completely smitten. After the course ends, Neil manages to have lunch with EF a couple times a year – entirely on her terms, dictating place, time, dishes, and she always pays – until she dies. It was observed that her self-sufficiency was such that people were often less central to her life than they believed, or more so. She leaves Neil all her papers and books in her will – was he one of the more or less central people? Hard to say. And of course, he does “set foot” in the West London flat. Should he attempt a biography? An edition of her writings? A cryptic comment in a notebook: “J – dead at thirty-one,” gets him wondering who that might refer to… a lover? I’m thinking: Neil! Jesus, of course! But it sends Neil down a rabbit highway to construct a biography of Julian the Apostate, a historical figure of significance to EF. 
     Here's where the story either gets interesting, or goes off the rails. The second portion of the book is Neil’s Julian essay. It is long. It is clumsy – wandering here and there through centuries and faiths. Julian was a Roman emperor who tried to roll back the tide of Christianity and restore religious freedom and respect for the old “pagan” beliefs – but died (at thirty-one) in one of the empire’s interminable wars before he got anywhere. I quite liked him. Disloyally, I  suspect Julian Barnes had gotten interested in his Apostate namesake, and that this novel was a frame (or an excuse) to make some practical use of it. At one point, Neil comments: “It is as if Julian imagined that he could win over the population by humorous yet sophisticated complaint, plus a public examination of his own character.” Julian Barnes, I see what you’ve done there. It’s also an opportunity for Barnes to muse – aptly, in this moment of current affairs and politics – on the very deep trouble arising from mixing government with religion, or, as he puts it: “the two disasters of early Christian history were the imposition of monotheism and the fusing by Constantine of Church and State.” Not to mention the historical fact that “more Christians were put to death in a single year of the Christian Empire than had been executed in three centuries of pagan dominion.”
     In the third section, Neil returns to the present, connecting with EF’s brother, and a former classmate (with whom he had had a desultory affair). We learn, belatedly, about “The Shaming,” where the tabloid press goes crazy over a rare public talk given by EF and her rather mild criticism of monotheism, a scenario that strains credulity for a character whose entire life has been very much less than public. Neil’s former lover mentions going swimming regularly with EF – someone has seen her in “beachwear.” And then… it just ends.
     So, I got what I expect from Julian Barnes: erudition, self-depreciating humor, graceful writing. I got some wry smiles of my own, remembering my own strangely non-charismatic medieval history professor who enchanted me with his ninety-minute no-notes lectures. But something has gone wrong with the characters. Neil – unreliable and withholding as a narrator – can only describe EF as he sees her, and since she is also a closed, withholding personality, neither one of them comes to life. So the reader – even a sympathetic one like me – struggles to connect with, or even picture, them. Perhaps it’s a bit of a feat for Julian Barnes to deliberately produce a rough, almost amateurish historical bio (when I know how good he is – see The Man in the Red Coat) as a product of his amateurish character. But I rather wish he’d just gone ahead and written a historical novel – or a straight bio - of his own about the Apostate. Nevertheless, three cheers and thanks to the teachers who inspired us. Most of us never really got to know them either, did we? And, as EF observes – on different pages: “Getting our history wrong is part of being a nation…a family… a religion… a person.”
Was this review helpful?
I can't remember the last time I read a book with  such mixed reviews.   I first wrote a beautiful, highly intelligent review which I ended up throwing in the trash. I am not going to talk about Socratic dialogue or the philosophical and historical significance of Julian the Apostate or his place in this book. I am not here to convince you of how smart I am.  You'll just have to take my word for it. I am, however, not as smart as Julian Barnes and that's okay. I can still enjoy his writing. 

Barnes never takes the road well traveled and so I was not surprised by the unusual structure of Elizabeth Finch.  I worked to avoid getting bogged down in the more cerebral elements and read it for the story. The story itself is relatable. It is first and foremost a love story.

I liked Elizabeth Finch (E.F.), the elusive professor who challenged  her students to think for themselves and our narrator, her student Neil who is taken with her from the get go. But the relationship is destined to be platonic which  allows them to remain friends over the years. Does Neil ever really know E.F.? Probably not. She didn't share much of herself but I have no doubt that she loved him in her own way, as shown by their ongoing lunches and her leaving him her personal library and papers. And what of that thesis of Julian the Apostate written by Neil after E.F.'s death? I think he did it to honor her both as a  teacher who changed his life and as a friend.  It was a  tribute to someone he loved and respected. The end.

I received a drc from the publisher via Netgalley.
Expected publication date 8/16/22.
Was this review helpful?
This is not my first Julian Barnes book; I have read (and enjoyed) at least two, so I thought this request was not too much of a risk. Alas, no.

Neil, our narrator, was and is obsessed with a former teacher; the titular Ms. Finch. She in turn was obsessed with Julian the Apostate (I don’t know either, and actually I still don’t as I skipped most of part 2).

It has a promising start: a kind of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie meets The Virgin Suicides with a dash of The Secret History, but that turns out to be too kind a description and no longer relevant by the end of part 1. I was losing interest by then anyway but was duly rewarded (punished) for my perseverance with part 2: an extended essay on the aforementioned Julian. I skimmed more and more until, as I’ve already mentioned, I wasn’t reading any of it. Part 3 brings us back to Neil and his conclusions, and fortunately, the end.

Now, this is the kind of book that when I give a low rating, I’m very conscious of others thinking I just don’t ‘get it’ or I’m not an ‘intelligent reader’, but sometimes it just is what it is: pretentious tedium trying to be about something. Cue: a Booker nomination and an eye roll from me.

Thank you, NetGalley for this ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Elizabeth Finch is endearingly remembered by Neil, as his influential teacher during a period of time where he longed for meaning in his life. These formative years and the friends and relationships of the time are remembered with nostalgia. He cherishes their enduring and structured friendship. Upon inheriting her library, Neil finds renewed direction, pursuing her passion for Julian the Apostate. This part of the book forms an extended non fiction essay and then story returns to revisiting friends from the past and reflection on memories. Whilst I struggled with the non fiction segment of the book, the character of Elizabeth Finch is intriguing and Neil’s obsession with her forms a thoroughly engaging last segment to the book. 

Thank you NetGallery for the ARC
Was this review helpful?
Julian Barnes showcases his mastery of character in his latest, ELIZABETH FINCH. A rich, quiet, complex read, slow-paced but haunting. Highly recommended.

Many thanks to Knopf and to Netgalley for the opportunity and pleasure of an early read.
Was this review helpful?
Elizabeth Finch is typical Julian Barnes in the sense that whatever, and how much, the reader brings to the book will likely determine how much they like it. It isn't a hierarchical thing, not a case of "getting it or not getting it," but rather simply whether the dynamic between the reader and the novel is a positive one for that reader. Which is to say that even more than most novels, this will be hit or miss.

My comment about the "it" that many people refer to is, for me, a bit of a dodge when it is used. Few books, if any, have one singular "it." This one has more than most. I got several "its" out of the book while some others may get none. Since meaning-making is a function of both the writer and the reader, there doesn't have to be a failure on either part for the book not to work, it is simply the dynamic between the two.

I found the idea of a nontraditional student having strong feelings for a particularly effective, for them, teacher relatable. Trying to figure out those feelings also makes sense, especially for someone like Neil who doesn't have a strong background in relationships: platonic, intimate, or otherwise. I also don't find the idea of loving a teacher who impacts your life as creepy. In fact, I find those who do to be far more creepy. They met twice a year for lunch, so while the novel, which focuses on the relationship, makes it sound all-consuming and obsessional, it isn't really that bad. He never betrayed the privacy he believed she wanted, never went creeping behind her to discover more. He went on about his life, changed because of her, but not stalking her or anything that would truly be creepy.

As for reading the novel, it is in three parts, of which the second is the one that seems, at first, out of place. I certainly thought so. But as I was reading it, and largely because I kept wondering why it was here, I started seeing connections. Back to EF herself, in how Neil viewed EF after her death, and once I read part three even to those revelations. So I would have to say that, for me, the section worked well within the bigger picture even if it wasn't the most enjoyable to read. It is also in this section where I think so many connections can be made outside the novel, to our world today and even to our own lives, or at least mine.

Like life, this novel is full of flawed characters. Kinda funny how we hate the perfect characters in books because they aren't realistic enough, yet criticize flawed characters because they are in fact realistic. Questionable decisions, somewhat flawed reasoning, even just plain irritating. These things are, depending on who one asks, descriptive of all of us whether we want to admit it or not. I can't imagine a novel without these kinds of characters, so why does their inclusion become the issue with some readers?

Admittedly I work harder to try to make a novel work for me rather than lament what it isn't and wallow in that misplaced expectation. This is one of those that required that effort and, fortunately, I was rewarded for it. That isn't always the case. Elizabeth Finch the character will stay with me, or rather, Neil's view of her will. Her almost cliche-ish response to some situations look at first like simplistic but empty comments. Maybe many are, but many warrant more consideration. Nuance makes many of them far more pointed than they seem, while looking for where they don't fit gives one opportunity to question why they often go unquestioned. Those thoughts and where they led me, and continue to lead me, will also stay with me.

In recommending this book to friends and family, I am being very sure to let them know it won't read like a standard novel, it isn't action-packed, there aren't really any aha moments. Or rather, those moments come from your interaction with it rather than from a particular moment in the book. There is a historical essay in the middle. The writing is quite good and, if you happen to find your way into the story, you may discover that part of the enjoyment is forming your own responses to what is written. If you want a basic "this then that" story, find something else, you may not enjoy this one. If you feel like working with Barnes' writing to create something for yourself, you could be richly rewarded. 

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
Neil is still infatuated with his former teacher of 'Culture and Civilization' Elizabeth Finch. Apparently it was a sort of intellectual attraction... or maybe not  only that. As their  relationship is basically at this intellectual level you can expect a lot of academic thinking that finally ends being centered on religion. Additionally, part two coŕresponds to a book written by Neil about Julian the Apostate. 

One of the things that I liked the most was this ambient of reflection, and also the historical analysis of the interpretation of Christianity and Paganism.

Therefore we can consider we are in a fictional book about  non-fiction topics, at times provocative and intellectually challenging.
Was this review helpful?
Neil, the narrator of this short novel, is enrolled in an adult university class called Civilization and Culture. Elizabeth Finch is the instructor who challenges her students by presenting them with historical events and then posing questions to force them to examine more than the facts. She uses Julian the Apostate, a Roman emperor as the springboard to question history and denigrate Christianity.
Neil is enthralled by Elizabeth Finch not only as a teacher but as a person who commands a classroom but reveals nothing of herself. When the class ends he manages to maintain contact with her meeting several times a year for lunch where she remains as private as ever. Neil is surprised when upon her death he is left her papers and books, including her personal  journals.  Even in death EF has chosen to retain her privacy. Frustrated, Neil befriends her brother hoping to discover more about her but this approach proves fruitless.  
Having hoped to write her biography Neil pays tribute to her by finishing his incomplete essay on Julian the Apostate.
The book is divided into three sections - the first when Neil first encounters EF and the third many years later . In between is Neil's essay outlining the life and subsequent treatment of Julian by historians. This is where it would be easy to give up on the book but that would be a mistake as it essentially binds the characters together in the way EF would have wanted - through the intellect.
Barnes isn't for everyone. He is an erudite author whose writing is clear and succinct and always leaves readers thinking about what they've read after they close the book.
Was this review helpful?
I really love Julian Barnes writing. The prose washes over you but the problem lies in the structure and emphasis in the book. A man in his thirties is firstly intrigued by his professor and then becomes infatuated. His life was a mess with two ex wives so Elizabeth Finch became an escapism. He then decides to write the book that he thinks Finch would have wanted him to write about a Roman Emperor. So much of the book is devoted to this and it becomes too much history book. Such an unsatisfactory book
Was this review helpful?
Julian Barnes has become a don't miss author for me since A Sense of an Ending. His work is thoughtful, almost meditative. And there's always something under the actual story- an allegory that reflects the current time. 

Elizabeth Finch- the curmudgeonly professor, whose opinions aren't always popular, and her teachings aren't always accurate- is the object of Neil, the narrator's intellectual affection. 

As far as Neil is concerned, Professor Finch can do no wrong, and after her death, he looks back on his relationship with her with fondness, and curiosity. 

Neil attempts to take up Finch's research on the emperor Julian, which makes up the whole second section- this really could have been edited down to a few paragraphs, or left out. 

This story reflects on memory- how reliable it is or isn't, how important to remember those who affect us, and what we have learned from them- as well as the tributes we pay to those memories. Even if they sound like a wikipedia article. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Knopf for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
After a heavy diet of thrillers and romcoms, I felt it was time for something a bit more substantial. This fit the bill but should probably be savored in smaller chunks than gulped down in a couple of days in a sunny garden. Either way, the author is clearly supersmart and I learned a lot, had my thoughts provoked, and looked up lots of words and people.

Neil, an actor in his thirties, takes a class called Civilization and Culture taught by the unorthodox Elizabeth Finch. Neil and the rest of the class, he believes, have their minds expanded by the discussions EF opens up for them. Long after the class concludes, Neil continues these discussions over lunch with EF right up till her death. When he finds out from her brother that EF has left him her library and notebooks, Neil feels she has set him a task.

There seem to be two crucial learnings from EF’s class: the death of Julian the Apostate (who he? Don’t worry, you’ll find out) as a pivotal point in human history; and Epictetus’s philosophy that “There are things you can control and things you can’t control. Once you accept that, you will find happiness.”

The second section of the book is Neil’s essay about the aforementioned Julian. Neil has been called “The King of Unfinished Projects” and he is determined not to succumb to that fault, though, as the reader, we realize he does. There is a brief history of Julian’s life and then the multiple interpretations of his position in history since his death in 363 AD as well as all the speculation about what would have happened if he hadn't died at the age of 31.

The third section of the book goes back to Neil as he decides whether he wants to write a biography of EF. Though Neil believes he knew her well - she left him her library and notes! - as he talks to other members of his class and her brother, he realizes that he was blinkered by his love for her (and how that is defined) and she showed him only one facet of herself and others saw different ones.

JB is one of the storied, now old, men of English letters along with Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, though he perhaps has not achieved quite the fame of those two. His novels are always very readable if intellectually demanding. It was perhaps not the wisest choice to read this on vacation - too little plot, too much philosophy - but did make me feel I’d read something meaningful and worthwhile.

Thanks to Knopf and Netgalley for the digital review copy.
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A young man becomes enamored with a college professor and strikes up a decades long platonic relationship.   After her death, he researches her life for a memoir.
Was this review helpful?
This divided into several distinct sections. The first delightful character study of elizabeth was delightful full of wit and emotion. The second study of Julian was interesting in light of the composition of the supreme court and the reliance many in America place in Christian theology to reach political decisions. 
I have read Julian by Vidal so this section was especially interesting to me, but I suspect most readers will not appreciate it.
Was this review helpful?
3.5 Stars

Elizabeth Finch (EF): A somewhat supernatural character blessed with oracle-like intellect and a penchant for astute ripostes. She is easy to like and admire for her searing intelligence and Oscar Wilde-like wit, yet despite this, she is something of an anachronism - so very detached from the real world, for all her wisdom and rejoinders. Intensely private, she neither seeks the limelight privately nor professionally. 

Our (unreliable) narrator – Neil – is fascinated by women who are more intelligent than him. Admires EF to the point of hero worship. He avoids confrontation, is selfish, overly possessive, quite the disciple and envious of others’ intimacy and closeness to her.

A quick read – the novella is divided into three parts. Although instrumental to the story, Part 2 frustrated me as a bolt-on academic essay about ancient Rome.    

My first by Barnes, but on this showing, I will certainly check out his other works. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday for granting this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Elizabeth Finch is an academic fever dream.  The story revolves around a middle age man and his relationship with one of his college professor. To solve the mysteries of this beautiful, elusive, academic he dives into her research of Julian,  an ancient Roman and contemporary of Christ.

Parts 1 and 3 of this novel are captivating.  The second part on the history of Julian should have been a compendium. Elizabeth does not get a final voice in the story and she seems a bit underdeveloped.
Was this review helpful?
My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an advanced copy of this novel on living, learning and what we leave behind. 

For a slim book Elizabeth Finch by the award- winning author Julian Barnes poses a lot of questions and ideas. Can a person know somebody who compartmentalizes their life so much? How do certain people touch and change a person's life so much, and yet remain a mystery? Is it fair to the dead to keep examining their life, a life that the person was confident in, even as others want to know more about. Is unrequited love creepy? And by looking for meaning in the lives of others, are we just looking for answers in our own. 

Our narrator Neil, is an actor who can't seem to find a role that he was good at in acting or in life. With his first, or two marriages collapsing around him, Neil takes an adult class, entitled Culture and Civilization taught by Professor Elizabeth Finch. Proper in dress, and attitude Neil feels that he has found something he never new was missing in his life. The two continue to meet, three times a year for lunch, in which she pays to catch up on life, lunch dates that continue until she passes away from cancer. Neil finds that he is to be her literary executor, where he finds more and in many ways less about Elizabeth and her experiences. Neil begins to examine her life, following her pursuits and finding out what Elizabeth Finch meant to others, not just to honour her, but maybe to find out more about himself. 

Julian Barnes has never written the same book twice, and always creates a story, or even an essay that makes a person think more than expected and wonder about the parts of the story that remain mysteries long after the book is done. Elizabeth Finch is equal parts biography of both Neil and Elizabeth and a historical study of Julian the Apostate, one who Elizabeth seemed to identify with, and who Neil begins to research in hopes of understanding what drew Elizabeth to him. And there are many questions. On life, love, intellectual pursuits, and what makes a life, one of mistakes like Neil, or one that is controlled with never a look back like Elizabeth Finch. The narrative jumps a bit with a tad of foreshadowing here and there, but never really loses its self. The section on Julian is a little odd, but it is interesting and in many ways might be a gift from Elizabeth to Neil, as he feels that he disappointed her by never writing an essay in class, this might be her giving him a chance to write that thesis. As I stated a lot goes on in this slim book. 

I have enjoyed Julian Barnes since reading A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, a book that I really had thought was a history book and finding myself confused and enthralled at the same time. So many of his books stay with me, and I find that even days later I am still thinking about this book. Yes there is the creep factor of this guy being fixated with this woman past death and wanting to know more and more about her. And it does raise a real question of if this woman controlled her life so much, would she want this kind of attention after her passing? And yes I realize that I am talking about fictional characters. I can only say I leave that to other readers. I really enjoyed this book am still thinking about it, and will continue to think about it as I do other books by Mr. Barnes.
Was this review helpful?