Elizabeth Finch: A novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

In this thought-provoking novel, Neil, the narrator, explores his intellectual infatuation with the professor of a class he took on "Culture and Civilisation." Elizabeth Finch was an eccentric, reserved, single woman who taught her romantic stoic philosophy in a manner that totally captivated Neil, a twice divorced, sometime actor and self-professed master of unfinished projects. He maintained a 20-year relationship based on lunch every couple of months with "EF" until her death, when he discovered that she had left all her notebooks to him. This started Neil on research into EF's pet subject, Roman emperor Julian the Apostate, whose life and death determined the future of Christianity's place in history according to EF. This slim novel is both an examination of the role of religion in making history and a look at how one enigmatic woman made an indelible impression on one admirer's life. It appealed to the historian in me as well as to the part of me that finds stoicism a most sensible philosophy.

— Alice


From the best-selling, award-winning author of The Sense of an Ending, a magnetic tale that centers on the presence of a vivid and particular woman, whose loss becomes the occasion for a man’s deeper examination of love, friendship, and biography.

"I’ll remember Elizabeth Finch when most other characters I’ve met this year have faded." –John Self, The Times

This beautiful, spare novel of platonic unrequited love springs into being around the singular character of the stoic, exacting Professor Elizabeth Finch. Neil, the narrator, takes her class “Culture and Civilisation,” taught not for undergraduates but for adults of all ages; we are drawn into his intellectual crush on this private, withholding, yet commanding woman. While other personal relationships and even his family drift from Neil’s grasp, Elizabeth’s application of her material to the matter of daily living remains important to him, even after her death, in a way that nothing else does.
In Elizabeth Finch, we are treated to everything we cherish in Barnes: his eye for the unorthodox forms love can take between two people, a compelling swerve into nonfictional material (this time, through Neil’s obsessive study of Julian the Apostate, following on notes Elizabeth left for him to discover after her death), and the forcefully moving undercurrent of history, and biography in particular, as nourishment and guide in our current lives.

About the Author

JULIAN BARNES is the author of twenty-four previous books, for which he has received the Man Booker Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Prix Médicis and Prix Femina in France, and the Jerusalem Prize. In 2017 he was awarded the Légion d’honneur. His work has been translated into more than forty languages. He lives in London.

Praise For…

“[Barnes’s] ambitions expand and contract from novel to novel.” —New York Times
“Mr. Barnes has always enjoyed playing with form and style, the porous border between fiction and nonfiction. . . . Over the course of Elizabeth Finch, Mr. Barnes frequently reminds us of the potency of mythmaking.” —Wall Street Journal

“Elegant. . . . Elizabeth Finch is erudite yet accessible.” —Star Tribune

"A lyrical, thoughtful, and intriguing exploration of love, grief, and the collective myths of history. Barnes adds yet another remarkable title to his astoundingly remarkable body of work." —Booklist

“A novel of ideas . . . with barely a sentence in it that doesn’t have some nutritional value . . . I’ll remember Elizabeth Finch when most other characters I’ve met this year have faded.” —John Self, The Times (UK)

“A singular tale.” —Daily Mail (UK)

"Everything Barnes writes changes everything . . . Barnes's latest novel, must be read at least twice for the full force of its voltage to be felt . . . A cryptic crossword of a novel, Elizabeth Finch is a trickier and even brainier version of Flaubert's Parrot." —Frances Wilson, Oldie
"The book's central and most enthralling section . . . deals with a figure Elizabeth Finch esteemed as a kindred spirit: Julian the Apostate . . . A bravura exercise in nimbly handled erudition . . . [Elizabeth Finch] also celebrates the cast of mind Barnes most prizes. A connoisseur and master of irony himself, he fills this book with instances of its exhilarating power." —Peter Kemp, Sunday Times
"Elizabeth Finch ranks alongside Barnes' best." —Joshua Pugh Ginn, UK Press Syndication
"A new novel from Booker Prize winner Julian Barnes is always a literary event, and Elizabeth Finch . . . is not different. Wistful, thought-provoking stuff." —Sunday Telegraph
"This is . . . Julian Barnes . . . in his best ambitious high concept mode, serious and playful at once." —Lindsay Duguid, Tablet, *Novel of the Week*

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593535431
ISBN-10: 059353543X
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: August 16th, 2022
Pages: 192
Language: English