It is official – When re reading a novel after a 12 year gap you discover so many new things. I’m amazed at how much I missed the first time round.
Anyway Geoffrey Breathwaite is a doctor who discovers two stuffed parrots and both state that they were borrowed by French writer Gustav Flaubert. Breathwaite then spends the rest of the book trying to figure out which parrot is the real one. In the process we, as readers are treated to an in depth study of Flaubert, albeit in non chronological order and via trivial aspects of his life , which are springboards to the most important aspects. The novel ends with a university style final examination which bring all aspects of this book to the forefront.
But that’s not all.
In his quest , we readers learn that writing is indeed a mirror of life and Geoffrey in his struggles to discover the parrot, goes through a process of self realization as well. Mainly that his life – and I assume that our lives owe a lot to writing. This is evident in the third last chapter.
Flaubert’s Parrot is a complex novel , but deceptively so. The reader is on a ride that’s both informative and interesting. This is , I feel , an experimental novel should be like. Maybe Barnes has done better ( his latest novel, The Sense of an Ending, is a masterpiece) but the intellectual playfulness one finds in Flaubert’s Parrot is totally missing.