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Arthur and George: A Novelby Julian Barnes
2005 Booker Prize nominee
Can I already announce the best book of 2006 in January? If so, here it is! With his customary elegant prose and intricate and wry observational skill, Julian Barnes narrates the true story of the relationship between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji and the tragic miscarriage of justice which brought them together. Dazzling!
Synopses & Reviews
From one of England's most esteemed novelists, an utter astonishment that captures an era through one life celebrated internationally and another entirely forgotten.
In the vast expanse of late-Victorian Britain, two boys come to life: George, the son of a Midlands vicar, and Arthur, in shabby genteel Edinburgh, both of them feeling at once near to and impossibly distant from the beating heart of Empire. One falls prey to a series of pranks en route to a legal vocation, while the other studies medicine before discovering a different calling entirely, and it is years before their destinies are entwined in a mesmerizing alliance. We follow each through outrageous accusation and unrivaled success, through faith and perseverance and dogged self-recrimination, whether in the dock awaiting complete disgrace or at the height of fame while desperately in love with a woman not his wife, and gradually realize that George is half-Indian and that Arthur becomes the creator of the world's most famous detective. Ranging from London clubs to teeming prisons, from a lost century to the modern age, this novel is a panoramic revelation of things we thought we knew or else had no clue of, as well as a gripping exploration of what goals drive us toward whatever lies in wait — an experience resounding with issues, no less relevant today, of crime and spirituality; of identity and nationality; of what we think, what we believe and what we can prove.
Intriguing, relentless and, most of all, moving, Arthur and George richly extends the reach and achievement of a novelist described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as "a dazzling mind in mercurial flight."
"Arthur is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, physician, sportsman, gentleman par excellence and the inventor of Sherlock Holmes; George is George Edalji, also a real, if less well-known person, whose path crossed not quite fatefully with the famous author's. Edalji was the son of a Parsi father (who was a Shropshire vicar), and a Scots mother. In 1903, George, a solicitor, was accused of writing obscene, threatening letters to his own family and of mutilating cattle in his farm community. He was convicted of criminal behavior in a blatant miscarriage of justice based on racial prejudice. Eventually, Sir Arthur ('Irish by ancestry, Scottish by birth') heard about George's case and began to advocate on his behalf. In this combination psychological novel, detective story and literary thriller, Barnes elegantly dissects early 20th-century English society as he spins this true-life story with subtle and restrained irony. Every line delivered by the many characters?the two principals, their school chums (Barnes sketches their early lives), their families and many incidentals?rings with import. His dramatization of George's trial, in particular, grinds with telling minutiae, and his portrait of Arthur is remarkably rich, even when tackling Doyle's spiritualist side. Shortlisted for the Booker, this novel about love, guilt, identity and honor is a triumph of storytelling, taking the form Barnes perfected in Flaubert's Parrot (1985) and stretching it yet again." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[D]eeply satisfying....The precision of the style suits the decorum of the period and serves to underline the warm, impulsive generosity of Doyle's support, which saved an innocent man from ruin. A triumph." Kirkus Reviews
"[F]ascinating....What appears to have been a 'footnote in legal history' is the source for a stunning literary achievement." Seattle Times
"Barnes's writing is, as usual, masterly....Facts are interpreted, then reinterpreted; the bigoted speak convincingly; nothing turns out quite as expected; and even the book's coda delivers a final shock." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"Though Arthur and George is smoothly written and professionally assembled, it's a ponderous performance — crammed full of historical research and re-creations of period details and overstuffed with evidence relating to George's legal case." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"The results are mostly admirable, as Barnes has created brilliantly intimate portraits....Arthur and George will greatly please those who want a Dickensian sprawl of a novel with one or two heroes and a sometimes thrilling story line." Boston Globe
"A beautifully modulated work; highly recommended." Library Journal
"[A] finely evocative historical novel as well as a morally and psychologically astute glimpse into the worlds of two men." Los Angeles Times
"While Arthur is the more colorful character...Barnes' George, thoughtful and cautious, is the greater creation, a tragic yet strangely noble little figure who may linger in your memory long after you have closed this marvelous book. (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
Julian Barnes is the author of nine novels, including Flaubert's Parrot, A History of the World in 10-1/2 Chapters, and England, England, which was shortlisted for the 1998 Booker Prize. He is also the author of Something to Declare and Letters from London, as well as two collections of short stories, Cross Channel and The Lemon Table. He lives in London, England.
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