August 18, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

Letters From London

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Julian Barnes
publisher
Vintage
genre
Essays, Nonfiction
We gave it an A

One of England’s premier novelists, Julian Barnes (Flaubert’s Parrot) has been The New Yorker‘s London correspondent since 1989, and Letters From London, the first collection of his missives, is a clear example of why he was an excellent choice. Barnes covers his territory with a dry wit and irreverence that remains distinctly English. Part investigative journalism, part extended essay, part opinionated posturing, the 15 pieces in this collection reveal as much of Barnes’ humor and canniness as they do the inner machinations of a country that once ruled the waves. He comes off best when he takes a satiric stance, as in ”Traffic Jam at Buckingham Palace,” his biting, tongue-firmly-in-cheek look at the royal family (”Queen Mother. Top Royal. The nation’s favorite granny. Gracious, smiling, professional, still carries off pastel colors even at an advanced age”). Not to be missed. A

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