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Before She Met Me

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  2,941 ratings  ·  208 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. ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published March 18th 2005 by Picador USA (first published April 15th 1982)
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Average rating 3.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,941 ratings  ·  208 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
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
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.
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. ...more
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.
Feb 23, 2021 rated it liked it
I can't tell if this book written in the early 80's is terribly dated or somewhat prescient, dealing as it does with a man driven mad by jealousy after seeing his wife acting in a crap British comedy. He starts searching out anything she's ever appeared in and questions whether she slept with her co-stars (co-star is misleading as she never says more that a trite sentence in any of them) in the film or in reality. Now anyone can drag up pictures of their current love pictured with previous lover ...more
Matthew Mousseau
Before She Met Me is a comic novel that lacks humour, a cautionary tale that lacks instruction. It is the story of Graham Hendrick - a sex-obsessed academic with few redeeming characteristics, who, jealous of the men his wife slept with before they met, grows increasingly unsympathetic with every page - and his second wife Ann - a former actress who, having traded a stimulating yet unsatisfying career for an equally unsatisfying marriage, has no inner life aside from brooding on how she's to bla ...more
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
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.
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.
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
Will Ansbacher
Feb 25, 2021 rated it it was ok
Tiresome and rather implausible story about a neurotic guy, Graham, who becomes obsessed with his wife Anne’s former lovers. I only made it through on the strength of Barnes’s often witty writing and the fact that it is mercifully short. It all hinges on Graham’s louche friend Jack, whom he uses as a confidant and for dubious psychiatric advice: Jack is apparently such an unimaginative author that he has to actually experience a real person before he can write about a similar fictional character ...more
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. ...more
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. ...more
May 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
I suppose when you embark on a project to read the entire output of an author, and especially one as prolific as Julian Barnes, you can't be too surprised to encounter the odd dud. And this was very much the case as concerns Before She Met Me, Barnes' second novel, published in 1982.

There is often the feeling with Barnes' works that he deliberately selects as his main protagonists dull, middle-aged males, whose idea of excitement is to wear a slightly different shade of beige. But in spite of th
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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. ...more

*phew* done reading another book for uni!
Russell Choy
Feb 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Easily one of Barnes’s worst. Interesting premise, horribly handled ending.
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
Jan 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
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
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
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.) ...more
Mona Raza Khan
Apr 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Before She Met Me
By Julian Barnes

For me reading a Julian Barnes novel is synonymous to drinking a cold glass of water on a very hot day! I love his old fashioned sly wit and the blatant selfish commentary of his characters.

This book is a dark comedy about the insidious jealousy of a husband towards all previous lovers of his wife, told in a typical Julian Barnes style dark witticism.

Graham, a sensible married college professor falls in love with an actress Anna and leaves his wife and daughter
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
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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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“Afternoon sex was the best sex of all, Ann thought. Morning sex she'd had enough of in her time: usually it meant, 'Sorry about last night but here it is anyway'; and sometimes it meant, 'This'll make sure you don't forget me today'; but neither attitude charmed her. Evening sex was, well, your basic sex, wasn't it? It was the sex which could vary from enveloping happiness via sleepily given consent to an edgy, 'Look, this is what we came to bed early for, so why don't we just get on with it.' Evening sex was as good or as indifferent, and certainly as unpredictable, as sex could be. But afternoon sex - that was never just a courteous way to round things off; it was keen, intended sex. And sometimes it whispered to you, in a curious way (and even though you were married), 'This is what we're doing now, and I still want to spend the evening with you afterwards.' Afternoon sex gave you unexpected comforts like that.” 4 likes
“It may be all right, you may have talked about it and agreed it was all right, but that’s not how sex works, is it? It’s where the unsayable is king; it’s where madness and surprise rule; it’s where the cheques you write for ecstasy are drawn on the bank of despair.” 4 likes
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