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Arthur and Georgeby Julian Barnes
Synopses & Reviews
Brilliantly imagined and irresistibly readable, Arthur & George is a major new novel from Julian Barnes, a wonderful combination of playfulness, pathos and wisdom.
Searching for clues, no one would ever guess that the lives of Arthur and George might intersect. Growing up in shabby-genteel nineteenth-century Edinburgh, Arthur is saddled with a dad who is a disgrace and a mum he wishes to protect, and is propelled into a life of action. To his astonishment, his career as a self-made man of letters brings him riches and fame and, in the world at large, he becomes the perfect picture of the honourable English gentlemen.
George is irredeemably an outsider, and has no hope of becoming such a picture. Though he's dogged and logical, a vicar's son from rural Staffordshire, he is set apart, and he and his family are targeted in his boyhood by a poison-pen campaign. George finds safe harbour in the reliability of rules, and grows up to become a solicitor, putting his faith in the insulating value of British justice.
Then crisis upsets the uneasy equilibrium of both men's lives. Arthur is knocked for a loop by guilt and other dishonourable emotions. George is put to the sorest test, accused of a horrible crime. And from that point on their lives weave together in the most profound and surprising way, as each man becomes the other's salvation.
Arthur & George is a masterful novel about low crime and high spirituality, guilt and innocence, identity, nationality and race. Most of all, it's a profound and witty meditation on the fateful differences between what we believe, what we know and what we can prove.
George and his father pray together, kneeling side by side on thescrubbed boards. Then George climbs into bed while his father locks the door and turns out the light. As he falls asleep, George sometimes thinks of the floor, and how his soul must be scrubbed just as the boards are scrubbed.
Father is not an easy sleeper, and has a tendency to groan and wheeze. Sometimes, in the early morning, when dawn is beginning to show at the edges of the curtains, Father will catechize him.
George, where do you live?
The Vicarage, Great Wyrley.
And where is that?
And where is that?
The centre of England.
And what is England, George?
England is the beating heart of the Empire, Father.
Good. And what is the blood that flows through the arteries and veins of the Empire to reach even its farthest shore?
The Church of England.
And after a while Father will begin to groan and wheeze again. George watches the outline of the curtain harden. He lies there thinking of arteries and veins making red lines on the map of the world, linking Britain to all the places coloured pink: Australia and India and Canada and islands dotted everywhere. He thinks of blood bubbling though these tubes and emerging in Sydney, Bombay, the St. Lawrence Waterway. Bloodlines, that is a word he has heard somewhere. With the pulse of blood in his ears, he begins to fall asleep again.
--excerpt from Arthur & George
From the Hardcover edition.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this bestselling novel explores the vast tapestry of late-Victorian Britain to create one of Barnes' most intriguing and engrossing novels yet.
Julian Barnes' Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel is based on Arthur Conan Doyle's extraordinary real-life fight for justice. "Arthur George" is based on the true story of two men. One is Arthur Conan Doyle, the other is George Edalji, a solicitor from Birmingham. Their nineteenth-century lives are worlds and miles apart, until a series of shocking events brings them together. In dubious circumstances, George is found guilty of harming animals and is sentenced to seven years' penal servitude--a future of ignominious obscurity. However, when Arthur, who is now one of the most famous men in the land as creator of Sherlock Holmes, hears of this racist miscarriage of justice he decides to clear George's name... Told against the backdrop of Arthur's family life--his own passionate affair with the woman who was to become the second Lady Conan Doyle and his wife's lengthy battle with tuberculosis--this extraordinary novel is a dazzling exercise in detection.
About the Author
Born in Leicester, England, in 1946, Julian Barnes is the author of two books of stories, two collections of essays, a translation of Alphonse Daudet’s In the Land of Pain, and nine previous novels. In France, he is the only writer to have won both the Prix Médicis and the Prix Fémina, and in 2004 he became a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In England his honors include the Somerset Maugham Award and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. He has also received the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He lives in London.
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