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Before She Met Me

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  2,790 ratings  ·  190 reviews
Graham was an historian: he was meant to be an expert on the past. But there were aspects of it, that couldn't be subdued, that simply carried on, lively and painful, as if they were the present. He minded very much indeed. This book presents a version of sexual jealousy and shows it to be not just living, but reasonable, ordinary, and dangerous.
Paperback, 176 pages
Published March 18th 2005 by Picador USA (first published April 15th 1982)
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Average rating 3.31  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,790 ratings  ·  190 reviews


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Paul Bryant
Sep 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
The moral of this book, which applies mostly to women, is that you should not get married to someone who, if they discover by accident that you had an earlier career as a porn actress which you had felt, quite understandably, that you didn't need to mention, will go very quietly mad, so quietly that there will be no signs that you should get the hell out of the house.

It may be a very good moral but it's not so useful, I think. I mean, you can hardly ask your affianced gentleman "Just imagine for
...more
Teresa
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When I reviewed England, England, I wrote that it was the first time I'd given a Barnes less than 4 stars. This is now the first time I've given one of his works less than 3 stars. I plan on reading them all, so I hope to never give one only a single star.

Barnes explores retrospective obsessive sexual jealousy to its ridiculous extreme, and to an inevitable (?) conclusion, but reading about the sexual act (and that's basically all this is about -- why isn't Graham jealous about other things conc
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Cheryl
I'm glad this wasn't the first Barnes I'd read, because it would have been the last.
It seemed, oddly, an immature work, being the worst of Updike with a dash of early McEwan.
I need to read something good now, to rinse out my mind.
Deea
Feb 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody. You are wasting your time reading this.
This was the crappiest and most annoying book I read in the last year. I didn't think Barnes was capable of ever writing such poor quality novels.
Irene
May 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
A middle-aged man in his second marriage suddenly and seemingly inexplicably obsessed with his wife’s romantic partners prior to their meeting. I found this irrational, self-centered, jealous man incomprehensible and unlikable. It is a testament to Barnes’ incredible skill that I was drawn into the orbit and life of such a character in this short book. Despite the very limited action, I could not put this down.
Adam
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
An impeccably written intervention in a far too prevalent obsession: our own grotesque embellishment of the past lives of significant others, phantoms we transfuse with the most putrid blood of our sickest eros. We imagine that whoever got there "first" not only got the best deal but spoiled it irreparably, though it likely never comes to such a precise and heinous wording. It's not enough to simply be together and no amount of reassurance can slake this morbid passion. No, such groundless, boun ...more
Andy
Jan 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: erotic fiction, Richard E. Grant fans
Shelves: kool-imports
A semi-creepy erotic novel about a neurotic wimp who discovers his second wife had a short lived career in low-budget sex comedies (she never told him) so he obsessively investigates her past sex life. There are times when the story’s amusing and times when it’s just plain irritating.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM THIS BOOK: This book would make a good BBC America TV movie with Richard E. Grant playing the nutty husband. I could see him making this story entertaining, otherwise we’re doomed.
Athena
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jesus!Incredibly well written. Amazing what obsession and sex can do to a person. Barnes language and thinking continues to shatter walls.
Girish
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
'Everyone had always called him sensible - his mother comfortingly, his first wife sneeringly, his colleagues applaudingly, his second wife with that fond, mocking, half-askance look in her eye. That's what he was, and he liked being it.'

This is one of the early books of Julian Barnes and you see traces of the brilliant author that he is. What is in the forefront however is a vivid portrayal of a sick mind battling 'retrospective' sexual jealousy, obsession and haunting of memory. What starts o
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Sean
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I could have used this book when I was 19/20. I wouldn't have been any less crazy, but at least I would have known I wasn't the only guy with serious, serious jealousy issues. This book and Portnoy's Complaint are all women need to know about men. If you still like us in the morning, you're brave indeed.
Rafa
May 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Banal.
Aljoša
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anna
Jul 27, 2011 rated it did not like it
I enjoyed several books by Barnes. Why, I actually loved them. I was so looking forward to reading this one, that's probably why the disappointment was really huge. For me, this book looked like a mix of pornography + a weak attempt at some psychological analysis. It was ugly, it was boring, it was disgusting at some places and totally implausible at others.

I'm glad I'm done with it and I hope other books by Barnes are more like Talking It Over than Before She Met Me.
Luisa Fer
Apr 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
British authors are so daring. It seems almost a contradiction. Here is this book which portrays a completely different sort of jealousy and Julian Barnes shows it with painful detail. It's so real that one wonders if we're all bound to crack at one point.
Lil
Mar 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
Painfully boring story of a man who becomes insanely jealous of his wife's previous lovers and more. Hated the characters and the only suspense was "when is this going to end?" There were a couple of funny lines but the book's most redeeming quality was that is was short.
Irini

*phew* done reading another book for uni!
Zornitsa
Dec 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
I have never read something so flat from Barnes. It just failed to move - on and on, the meaningless obsession of the unappealing protagonist, a man switching to a younger, peroxide wife then feeling uncontrollably jealous of her past. Other characters were just as unpleasant - the bimbo herself, the writer friend with his fart jokes, the calculating first wife...
I love Barnes for an elegance that sometimes means depth, like a precision tool you'd use to extract something from a hard-to-reach pl
...more
Mark
Jan 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Iago:

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-ey'd monster, which doth mock
The meat it feeds on. That cuckold lives in bliss,
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger:
But O, what damnèd minutes tells he o'er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!


Othello: O misery!

Torn between affection and anxiety, and suspicious of his wife's tendency towards infidelity and riddled with retrospective jealousy - the poor man is unable to live with his see-sawing emotions and is driven i
...more
Cynthia
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
A story of obsession that you just know is not going to turn out well. I feel like I have known someone just like Graham and am glad that I recognized it before it went to far.
Chaitalee Ghosalkar
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
The book blurb made me think ‘While this one might not take me on a roller coaster of emotions, it’ll at least be a fun ride’.

And to be honest, it did begin well. We have Graham, a victim of a difficult wife, a loveless marriage, who meets a younger woman and falls in love with her. Happily ever after, you say? Well, not quite.

There’s something about dark comedy that doesn’t sit well with me. Most of the time, stories of this genre end up being mostly dark and only marginally humorous. In Befor
...more
Qamar Bayezid
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm glad this wasn't my first Julian Barnes book because then I would have said 'What's with all the fuss about this writer?' Or 'Well, I guess this isn't his best one yet'
Right in the middle of the book, I had reoccurring thoughts of putting this book down once and for all because I thought it was going no where.
It lacked the depth and sophistication of Barnes' previous books, it was quite a vulgar novel too, too shallow. But I guess it poses some questions about the nature of mankind -man in
...more
Teodora Miceva
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I only had about two hours a day to read in the last four days, yet this book got me thinking about it most of the time when I wasn't reading it, too. That's how good it is. Still, don't bother to pick it up if you are mostly into 'feel good' literature and happy endings. It is a dark, ominous and disturbing, yet very readable and engaging exploration of the primeval in man. Jealousy, if out of control, can be a nasty emotion that destroys lives of both those who are jealous and those who are ob ...more
Victor Sonkin
Vintage Barnes; horrifying and awesome. (This was not rereading for rereading's sake; it was for a reason, which I hope will come into fruit next year.)
Marco Matos
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great Book! My first Julian Barnes and I pretty much liked his prose. Looking further to read another book from him. The next one is going to be 'The Sense of an Ending'.
The crazy thing about this novel is that, despite Graham's problems, he still is the most sane one, and that's what drives him crazy at first. He is a moderated and responsible guy that sees himself engulfed by a generation of autodestructive artists, who inflict themselves with mediocre relationships and then escape them with w
...more
Laura
Aug 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Graham spends a brief period of time patting himself on the back after he meets Ann. She's pretty, sexually adventurous and a world away from his pedestrian wife Barbara. Quite why Ann's interested in insecure historian Graham is uncertain-the nice, safe guy after all of the wild boys of her youth?-but anyway, she is, they marry and Graham starts Part 2 of his life scarcely believing his luck.

But one day he takes his daughter to the pictures and spots the lovely Ann in one of her sexy cinematic
...more
Tal S
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book, other
At the start of this fiendishly comic and suspenseful novel, a mild-mannered English academic chuckles as he watches his wife commit adultery. The action takes place she met him. But lines between film and reality, past and present become terrifyingly blurred in this sad and funny tour de force from the author of Flaubert's Parrot.

i read this book for my book club - it was entirely *not* my kind of book and i disagree that it is "comic" or "suspenseful". i assume that i thought it was dull and k
...more
Carolyn
Jan 10, 2016 rated it liked it
This is the third book by Barnes that I have read recently. I find him always worth the read and particularly enjoy his writing in this, the short story form.

This set of stories falls into two sections. The first all have a very modern sensibility, with every second story a ‘smart set’ dinner party conversation ‘At Phil and Joanna’s 1, 2 etc. These have a nice satiric touch, while the intervening stories are more serious, often about the essential loneliness of the human condition.

I didn’t app
...more
Damien Mosley
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read Before She Met Me straight after I finished The Sense of Ending, the only other of Julian Barnes's book's I have read. Going back three decades to Barnes's earlier work after reading such a complete work of art that is The Sense of Ending gives great insight into his growth as a writer. Before She Met Me is very readable but obviously no where near as good his Booker Prize winner and had an interesting if not a bit comic story line. I enjoyed the book and it's flow. I could see a lot of p ...more
Stephen Curran
If you want to write a story about animal instinct verses rational thought, it's a sound idea to have your main character succumbing to sexual jealousy. Before She Met Me sees its unassuming protagonist turn rapidly from "a very sensible person" into a "little Othello" when confronted with his second wife's past. He can't help it. In the end, he even gives up trying to justify his appalling behaviour: it's out of his hands.

This is a solid, thoughtful, frank novel, with a wince-inducing climax.
Gerald
Feb 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: serious students of literary style in fulfilled relationships
I can't remember finishing a book and immediately regretting that I'd read it. The disappointment here isn't any lack of artistry in the crafting of the book. No, it's simpler than that, and perhaps it's just my mistake for picking it up. I thought it was a comic novel. Indeed, it starts out that way. But it's a cynical character study, with a bloody bummer ending. Sorry, Barnes fans. He's lost me.
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Julian Patrick Barnes is a contemporary English writer of postmodernism in literature. He has been shortlisted three times for the Man Booker Prize--- Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England (1998), and Arthur & George (2005), and won the prize for The Sense of an Ending (2011). He has written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.

Following an education at the City of London School and
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