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  • Writer's pictureGaili Schoen

Elizabeth Finch

“We all pursue what we think is best for us, even if it means our extinction. Sometimes, especially if it means that.”

Hello Seasoned Readers!

Lately I have been posting reviews of only my favorite books, but after reading Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes which I gave ⭐⭐⭐/5 on Goodreads, I wanted to review it for you anyway, because some of you might love this book in spite of my criticism.

“Why should we expect our collective memory – which we call history – to be any less fallible than our personal memory?”

Elizabeth Finch started out great; It tells the story of Neil who takes an adult "Culture and Civilisation" class at a local university, and falls in intellectual love with the professor, Elizabeth Finch.

“That old question which has become known as the Mozart dilemma: is life beautiful, but sad; or sad, but beautiful?”

The reader gleans much philosophy and wisdom from the classroom exchanges, and I was hooked by Barnes' writing style and reflections on love:

"Men and women: the misunderstandings and the misreadings, the false or lazy agreements, the well-meant lying, the hurtful clarity, the unprovoked outburst, the reliable geniality which conceals emotional indolence. And so on. The expectation that we can understand another’s heart when we can scarcely understand our own."

Unfortunately, the middle section of the book took a nose dive, in my opinion. It is a wordy essay written by Neil (inspired by Elizabeth's teachings of Greco-Roman and Christian philosophy) on the life of the Roman emperor Julian (known as "The Apostate" for Julian's staunch criticism of Christianity). When Barnes moves the story back to Neil reading through Elizabeth's papers, which she bequeathed to him after her death, the story resumes and finishes on an upbeat note:

"Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us. This thing is not now up to me, and so will not hinder me from attaining freedom and happiness. And any ironic laughter you hear will be mine."

I have included many quotes from this book here so that you could see how great the discourse is. The middle section, however, reads more like a history book:

"Julian was a Roman Emperor who never set foot in Rome. He was more of an accidental emperor -- though accidents led to imperial power more often in those days. He spent his early life as a scholar, far from court, far from military duty...."

All in all I enjoyed Elizabeth Finch very much, in spite of nodding off a few times during the essay. I'll leave it to you decide if it's your kind of story or not. You can check it out from the library, or on the Libby app (there is a wait but not too long), take a look at it at your local bookstore, or click to buy it on Amazon below. If you read Elizabeth Finch, let us know what you think in the comments below! This would make a great book club book as it elicits many questions and topics for debate.

Hardcover 192 pages, Audiobook 5 hours, 17 minutes

Hope you are surviving floods and other cataclysmic disasters wherever you are. It is in the 90s here in West Los Angeles, hotter in the valleys and deserts, and we haven't had any rain in ages. Take care and read yourself happy!

P.S. I really enjoyed this article entitled, Could Reading Be the Best Anti-Aging Secret? in the Sixty and Me blog today; it includes ideas on how to discover new books to read (besides reading my reviews!)


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