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Those Barren Leaves

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  520 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Aldous Huxley spares no one in his ironic, piercing portrayal of a group gathered in an Italian palace by the socially ambitious and self-professed lover of art, Mrs. Aldwinkle. Here, Mrs. Aldwinkle yearns to recapture the glories of the Italian Renaissance, but her guests ultimately fail to fulfill her naive expectations. Among her entourage are: a suffering poet and relu ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 15th 1998 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1925)
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Ryan Williams
Jun 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, britain, reread
Aldous Huxley's Those Barren Leaves is one of the author's early novels that show he is destined for great things. Perhaps he did not become a great novelist such as Faulkner or Conrad, but he became one of the most powerful intellects of the 20th century. Whether he was writing essays, novels, short stories, or nonfiction, he was an incredible force. There are times in Those Barren Leaves where Huxley is pushing against the limits of what the genre could convey, and sending us into empyrean rea ...more
Mj Zander
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book doesn't really pick up until the second part, but once it does, it's very hard to put it down. Comparing this book to Crome Yellow, Huxley's first shows his growth in character development and description. Here his characters are more complex. There is no doubt that Mr. Cardan is a reincarnation of Mr. Scogan and Mrs. Aldwinkle of Patricia Wimbush, but delightful reincarnations they are. In addition, Huxley masters scene-setting description with descriptions of "black silhouetted leaves ...more
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it
This book really reads like a practice run for Point, Counter Point. Characters spout philosophical notions about life, death, religion, art, and every other topic the author is anxious about. Some very obvious Eastern religion influences which I can't remember if he develops in Point, Counter Point. The weird bit is how he flips through different genres--Balzacian character description, an autobiography, one bit even reads like a Gothic horror novel. I thought that the pacing dragged during the ...more
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves...

Huxley’s third novel explores and eviscerates, in a rather rambling but entertaining way, the cultural affectations of the 1920s, as represented by Mrs Aldwinkle’s circle of guests trapped in her palace in Italy. Mrs Aldwinkle has purchased not only the palace, but “vast domains unmentioned in the contract. She had bought [the aristocratic family] and their history...the whole peninsula and everything it contained...its arts, its mu
Dec 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 20, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Apr 01, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 14, 2008 rated it did not like it
How could the guy who wrote Brave New World also write a book this boring and pointless? It boggles the mind.
Mark Elderson
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
What's it about? It is the mid 1920's and Italy. Just as with Crome Yellow, Aldous Huxley's Those Barren Leaves begins with someone on a bicycle approaching a very big house. In this case it happens to be only a postman on the bicycle, but the Big House is again central, this time being an Italian former summer-palace now owned by a wealthy English lady entertaining herself with whatever interesting company she can get her hands on. Aldous Huxley again mixing Interesting Ideas voiced in the conv ...more
Doug Lewars
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
*** Possible Spoilers ***

This book is not easy reading.

1923 - 1925: These are the dates during which Those Barren Leaves was most likely written. At the time Huxley was publishing every two to three years so it seems reasonable that he wrote in between publishing dates. The First World War had been over for 5 years. Although some might have detected the first hints of problems in Germany, it is unlikely they'd be noticed by most people. Most people could view the world in a reasonably optimisti
Peter Prentice
So this is quite obviously a work of satire or as a practical joke written by Huxley, and it's a great read the whole way through, although I did grow tired of its length which spouted a single point, and the same one in many of his others' works, regarding the superficiality of the cultural elite. Would recommend reading some Woodsworth from which this is inspired.
Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Once again Mr. Huxley demonstrates a mastery in unmasking the absurdity and hypocrisy apparent in the human psyche. By decomposing a vast array of realistic and self-consisten characters, Huxley satirises not only the post-Victorian elite that were his contemporaries, but the very idea of human civilisation itself.
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Que surpresa boa!!! Terceiro romance do Huxley é incrível, cheio de nuances, descrições completas e humanas e muita ironia por trás da burguesia...
Some genuinely great writing from Huxley, thoroughly enjoyable reading. His skewering of the characters’ pomposity and snobbery was delightful.
Craig Masten
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Theresa Leone Davidson
This is my first Huxley novel and I enjoyed it, particularly the descriptions of lovely Italy, where the story is set, and two of the characters, Lord Hovenden and Irene, make the story interesting, because they are likable and made me want to keep reading so I could find out what happens to them. Many of the other characters, particularly Lillian Aldwinkle and Miss Thriplow, are not at all sympathetic, and embody all of the worst traits a woman (especially) can possess. I am usually not crazy a ...more
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'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
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
George Shetuni
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was ok

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
Mar 10, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Oct 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
David Lomas
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
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.
Derek Daigle
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Hux dishes out a smorgasbord of wisdom in this one. More of a philosophical satire than the dystopian future of 'Brave New World' which seems to be what most people were expecting based off half the reviews on this site. Kind of reminded me of 'Great Gatsby' in a way.
Grim-Anal King
Aug 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 03, 2009 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
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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
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