Before She Met Me: an Anatomy of Jealousy
Before she met me by Julian Barnes is the perfect example of a book you should never give to your partner as a Valentine gift. Nevertheless, the story is quite engaging, and it explores the dark side of love: jealousy.
Before She Met Me by Julian Barnes is the perfect example of a book you should never give your partner as a Valentine gift.
Nevertheless, the story is quite engaging and explores the darker side of love: jealousy.
Graham is a historian who leaves his wife for Ann, who makes him happy until he discovers her past as a B movie actress. He becomes fixated on her films and on her past love life and starts descending into obsession.
The novel shows how a sentiment everybody has experienced at least once in their life can basically ruin your existence. But Barnes’ analysis goes further and takes an unexpected turn, involving broader themes and topics.
After all, Graham is experiencing his first period of sexual freedom after a castrating marriage. His fantasies run wild and take hold of reality, altering his perception. To him, there is no more difference between the present and the past.
As far as Graham is concerned, the past is something that takes any responsibility off his shoulders:
“It had all been decided for him up there in his brain, without consultation, years ago; decided by sodding history and his background and his parents’ choice of one another – by the unprecedented combination of genes they had thrust at him and told him to get on with”.
The past is a theme that is examined throughout the novel. Ann feels guilty about her past and must rewrite it, in order to hide the affair from her husband that she had had before their relationship started. By denying this affair, she rewrites her own past as well as the one of her former lover Jack, a writer.
Now, the fact that he is a writer also has its own implications. This decision has an unexpected consequence on him, who approaches it through his work:
“I’m always doing it myself. Every time I tell a story it’s different. Can’t remember how most of them started off any more. Don’t know what’s true. Don’t know where I came from“.
This is a postmodern understanding of the past, of history; as a story that can be edited to suit others needs and as an account by an unreliable author.