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Those Barren Leaves
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Those Barren Leaves

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  363 ratings  ·  28 reviews
In a renovated Italian palace set above the blue of the sea, the Junoesque figure of Mrs Aldwinkle moves among her guests. These include a poet who earns his living editing The Rabbit Fancier's Gazette; a popular novelist who records every detail of her affair with another guest as future literary material; an aging philosopher who pursues a wealthy yet mentally-disabled h ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 7th 2005 by Vintage Classics (first published 1925)
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Ryan Williams
Huxley is best known for Brave New World, and his later descent into drugs and quackery. That seems a pity. His satires from the 1920s stood out even in that pitiless decade for their icy precision and clarity, and Those Barren Leaves is the sharpest.
Natalie Jean
Extraordinarily clever. I laughed when I read this book, Huxley is a man of incredibly good satire.
I believe the characters in this book invented as different facets of himself. And in his genius state, created them as mouthpieces for his own discussion on life. There is hardly a plot, and his characters are defined by singular niches, "the jaded socialite turned cynic, the beautiful writer, the shrewd devil may care, and the delusional overachieving social aspirer." The book is overwhelmingly
...more
Ant
Those Barren leaves is a brilliant book with a layered but nevertheless easy to follow structure of stories within stories & interesting digressions. The language in it is not quite as dense as his previous work Antic Hay (he must have learnt from his prior mistakes) & while the story itself is not overly rich, the trip the characters make to Rome makes up for it. While the characters themselves are basically flawed people, it is not difficult to like each of them if only for their weakn ...more
Neil
I picked this book up on impulse without expectations. Right from the start, Huxley's excellent tongue-in-cheek humor is hard at work mocking the cultural elite on their Italian villa retreat. The beautiful Mediterranean setting is intentionally ironic, contrasting the rich achievements of the region's past artists with the people who are ostensibly in a position to carry their torch in modern society. Despite the essentially unsympathetic portrayals of the characters, and the hilarity of the co ...more
Jim
Refined, clever writing, but I felt it was a dated and mannered account of people it was hard to believe in, or indeed to care for. The narrative of the story is less interesting than the brilliant moments of elegant, intelligent description or the delightfully malicious humorous scenes, such as Mr Cardan's quest for a supposed prize sculpture. The novel often digresses into philosophical and linguistic discourse, and much of the dialogue is delivered, less to move on the plot, but more to make ...more
Sorana
I felt like reading high-quality fanfiction while reading this, and that was a compliment since reading fanfics is generally more fun than reading anything else. People, tons of interesting people and personalities and psychological observation, pretense and digression in a pretentious social environment, not one detail remained unsaid. Add tons of philosophical discussions in that context- perfect. The mysticism at the end was predictable, but welcomed. This was wonderful and I'm looking forwar ...more
saizine
'And how long do you propose to stay?'
'I haven't the faintest idea.'
'Till you've got to the bottom of the cosmos, eh?'


A fine example of Huxley's early work and very much what you'd call a philosophical novel. Character-driven satirical plot that is engaging despite the frequent lapses into theory and philosophizing. It should be said that Those Barren Leaves is more akin to Eyeless in Gaza than Brave New World, and perhaps a good indicator for if a you'd suit the style is if you also enjoy the w
...more
Sarah
How could the guy who wrote Brave New World also write a book this boring and pointless? It boggles the mind.
George Shetuni

Those Barren Leaves by Aldous Huxley is as precise as a needle, but unfortunately, that’s it. His ever-skeptical attitude is only good when the subject matter and characters are too, but in this novel no issue, no insight, no argument, no character has stood out for any pleasantries - quite a disappointment in the face of Crome Yellow. The only good part was when Chelifer was recounting his affair with Barbara Waters, but that didn’t last a long time, and the rest of the book did. Huxley appears
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Kate
"Q. And what will happen if I make myself aware, if I actually begin to think?
A. Your swivel chair will turn into a trolley on the mountain railway, the office floor will gracefully slide away from beneath you and you will find yourself launched into the abyss."

"The child, I thought, grows up to forget he is of the same flesh with his parents; but they do not forget. I wish, for her sake, that I were only five years old"

"Simplicity is no virtue unless you are potentially complicated."

"It is Dide
...more
Craig Masten
An intriguing book that examines a variety of human characters, mainly staged in the setting of a rich woman's italian estate, but elsewhere too. The novel iexamines each of the main actors' lives from their private points of view and via the author's third person perspective. Huxley certainly indulges each at length with the slowness appropriate to spending a season as guests in a villa, but also in the manner most of our days pass anywhere. He certainly uses humor to spoof all the people in th ...more
Skizelo
Another of Huxley's early novels where he puts the boot into his friends. Like Antic Hey and Chrome Yellow it's another perpetual house-party thrown by a ghastly woman who collects artists like butterflies. You would think Lillian Aldwinkle, a smudge of a woman who you would think had to be a composite or pure invention, but was apparently a recognizable satire of Lady Ottoline Morrell. It's a bit broken-backed novel. There are false-starts, and it changes between satire and po-faced philosophy ...more
David Lomas
I have read Huxley's 3 earliest novels one after the other and still have appetite for more. Sharing the most extraordinary breadth of knowledge in a sparkling, effortless way I don't think these gems from the 1920's have aged. Possibly not the punchiest of plots or the most memorable distinct characters but still a persuasive account of the rootless cultural elite flailing about for a purpose in the aftermath of the first world war. Consistently enjoyable and very spirited, but with a continuin ...more
Brian
i love reading works by philosophers. brilliant satire and interesting concepts--but a little try. ah, but how could huxley be a philosopher otherwise?
John
A mixture of characters in Italy are staying at a mansion on the coast of a woman who believes herself to be of an artistic temperment. They are an old cynic, a younger cynic who writes for a rabbit journal, a youngish woman who considers herself sensitive, a young aristocrat and his communist friend, and a girl who adores the house owner.

This is a satire of the artistic set in the avant-garde era. It appears to be too subtle for some readers.

Many parts of this work were shamelessly ripped off b
...more
Quinn
This book was set in Italy at takes place mostly in Mrs. Aldwinkle's mansion. She has several visitors who spent most of their time talking about life and their philosophies. They talked a lot about life and death, love, and money. I wouldn't really recommend this book to very many people because it was very difficult to read. It jumped around a lot between different people's point of views and beliefs. The entire novel didn't really have a beginning middle and end, but was more just a lot of be ...more
Samantha
The characters are supposed to be cariactures. However I found nothing satirical about the narcisistic, pretentious and pompous bunch of idiots. After a terrible incident, one of the characters fails to inform the victims family and then sits there meditating on the nature of the incident rather than feeling any remorse. Uttterly awful. Avoid.
Grim-Anal King
Relatively entertaining combination of metaphysical probing and mocking the pretentious. This the type of novel which would be horrendous were it attempted by an author as hamfisted as, say, Ayn Rand, so Huxley did a pretty good job.
Jamie
Sep 09, 2009 Jamie marked it as books-i-couldn-t-finish  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to read this, given that I liked Brave New World so much. This is nothing like BNW. It's a very stuffy book about stuffy people and didn't hold my interest at all.
Stephanie Augustin
While Mr Cardan serves as Huxley's voice of reason, this social critique is made spicier by Chelifer's sly narrative and the childlike courting between Hovenden and Irene.
Nick Hufford
I wish I could do a half star. I thought the plot lost its grip on me at points, but had a very Aldous ending that made the book gratifying to have read
Brett
Not Huxley's best work. In many ways almost a duplication of his earlier Antic Hay. Still, strong word play and some gratifying scenes.
Chris
Surprisingly dull from the writer of Brave New World.
Lori
Feb 12, 2008 Lori rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I wouldn't recommend it to anyone
Great for insomnia - BOOORING - stopped reading it after like 30 pages.
Jill
Those Barren Leaves (1956)
Marci
Feb 12, 2009 Marci is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
This is an outdated book. Huxley might have been trying to belittle the pettiness of social settings of his time. But it comes over as a meaningless tale about mean people with too much time on their names. I'll send it back into the time machine
t
Sarah
Sarah added it
Jul 30, 2015
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Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. He spent the latter part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death in 1963. Best known for his novels and wide-ranging output of essays, he also published short stories, poetry, travel writing, and film stories and scripts. Through his novels and es ...more
More about Aldous Huxley...
Brave New World Brave New World / Brave New World Revisited The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell Island Brave New World Revisited

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“Money brings no satisfaction if one has to work for it; for if one works for it one has no time to spend it.” 1 likes
“Simplicity is no virtue unless you are potentially complicated.” 1 likes
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