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Arthur & George

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As boys, George, the son of a Midlands vicar, and Arthur, living in shabby genteel Edinburgh, find themselves in a vast and complex world at the heart of the British Empire. Years later—one struggling with his identity in a world hostile to his ancestry, the other creating the world’s most famous detective while in love with a woman who is not his wife–their fates become i As boys, George, the son of a Midlands vicar, and Arthur, living in shabby genteel Edinburgh, find themselves in a vast and complex world at the heart of the British Empire. Years later—one struggling with his identity in a world hostile to his ancestry, the other creating the world’s most famous detective while in love with a woman who is not his wife–their fates become inextricably connected. In Arthur & George, Julian Barnes explores the grand tapestry of late-Victorian Britain to create his most intriguing and engrossing novel yet.


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As boys, George, the son of a Midlands vicar, and Arthur, living in shabby genteel Edinburgh, find themselves in a vast and complex world at the heart of the British Empire. Years later—one struggling with his identity in a world hostile to his ancestry, the other creating the world’s most famous detective while in love with a woman who is not his wife–their fates become i As boys, George, the son of a Midlands vicar, and Arthur, living in shabby genteel Edinburgh, find themselves in a vast and complex world at the heart of the British Empire. Years later—one struggling with his identity in a world hostile to his ancestry, the other creating the world’s most famous detective while in love with a woman who is not his wife–their fates become inextricably connected. In Arthur & George, Julian Barnes explores the grand tapestry of late-Victorian Britain to create his most intriguing and engrossing novel yet.

30 review for Arthur & George

  1. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    A thoroughly enjoyable and, from what I can divine, historically accurate, telling of the intersecting lives of George Edalji and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The former being the earnest son of a country Vicar, a myopic solicitor, who also happens to be half South Asian in ancestry. The latter being the fascinating, chivalrous, athletic, literary inventor of Sherlock Holmes. Their lives meet for less than a year, when Doyle comes across Edalji's case - one which can only be described as a grave misc A thoroughly enjoyable and, from what I can divine, historically accurate, telling of the intersecting lives of George Edalji and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The former being the earnest son of a country Vicar, a myopic solicitor, who also happens to be half South Asian in ancestry. The latter being the fascinating, chivalrous, athletic, literary inventor of Sherlock Holmes. Their lives meet for less than a year, when Doyle comes across Edalji's case - one which can only be described as a grave miscarriage of justice - and does everything in his power to right George's wronged name. This is the first time I have read a book by Julian Barnes, and I'm very impressed. This was meticulously researched, and beautifully written. He brought out the characters fairly without being overly sentimental. He was quite thorough, beginning at childhood for both the main characters, so it isn't until the halfway point that Arthur and George finally meet. While this provides richness to the story, it also makes for a rather slow start to the book. In addition to following the case, which highlights the racism experienced by an English man in his own country, there is more going on here. Stories of love and marriages, and themes of religious belief (including the controversial 'spiritism') light the pages. The contrast of George's small and humble life with Doyle's far reaching, enigmatic one. The power of rumour and suggestion. I also was very interested in how Doyle found real life sleuthing somehow deflating vs the way truth shows itself in satisfying drama in books. Other tidbits I savoured: - ACD felt embarrassed and punished by the character of his famous detective - guests at Sir Arthur's 2nd wedding featured literary luminaries such as Bram Stoker and J.M. Barrie - Doyle investigated and helped to exonerate other wrongfully convicted people in his life, and also played amateur sleuth in the 5-day disappearance of new mystery writer Agatha Christie Not a fast page-turner, this is a rich and thoughtful homage to two very differing people who had a meaningful impact on each other's lives.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    THE BLURB As boys, George, the son of a Midlands vicar, and Arthur, living in shabby genteel Edinburgh, find themselves in a vast and complex world at the heart of the British Empire. Years later—one struggling with his identity in a world hostile to his ancestry, the other creating the world’s most famous detective while in love with a woman who is not his wife–their fates become inextricably connected. In 'Arthur & George', Julian Barnes explores the grand tapestry of late-Victorian Britain t THE BLURB As boys, George, the son of a Midlands vicar, and Arthur, living in shabby genteel Edinburgh, find themselves in a vast and complex world at the heart of the British Empire. Years later—one struggling with his identity in a world hostile to his ancestry, the other creating the world’s most famous detective while in love with a woman who is not his wife–their fates become inextricably connected. In 'Arthur & George', Julian Barnes explores the grand tapestry of late-Victorian Britain to create his most intriguing and engrossing novel yet. It's the first time ever, that I immediately, within seconds after starting the book, had to confirm the meaning of a word: tourism. Yes, imagined that. The author starts this book with this introductory paragraph: A child wants to see. It always begins like this, and it began like this then. A child wanted to see. He was able to walk, and could reach up to a door handle. He did this with nothing that could be called a purpose, merely the instinctive tourism of infancy. Striking use of the word, right? The official definition of the word: the commercial organization and operation of holidays and visits to places of interest. How would anyone want to close a book beginning like that. Using the word in the context of the opening paragraph, the tone is set for the book, the author's approach to history is established, the purpose of this novel confirmed. The books of Julian Barnes is an acquired taste. While the author seeks to tell a story, he does it with a slow pen, meticulous research and a challenging angle to everything. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle probably inherited his love of storytelling from his mother Mary(neé Foley) who loved to entertain her younger children with ghost- and other nightmarish stories, "sinking her voice to a horror-stricken whisper". His mother's alternative approach challenged her children to question everything, to seek the truth wherever it may be hidden. The rebel in this young boy was firmly established. His father, an artist and alcoholic did not play a significant role in the young man's life. At home he learned extra commandments on top of the ten he knew from church. “Fearless to the strong; humble to the weak,” was one, and “Chivalry towards women, of high and low degree.” He felt them to be more important, since they came directly from the Mam; they also demanded practical implementation... ...The Christian virtues could be practiced by everyone, from the humble to the high-born. But chivalry was the prerogative of the powerful. The knight protected his lady; the strong aided the weak; honour was a living thing for which you should be prepared to die. His background and education would later lead to four personas in one intellectually gifted person: Arthur - the scholar and medical student, the humanitarian; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - the famous author; Dr. Conan Doyle - who offered his medical expertise during the Anglo Boer War among other things; and his most controversial persona, the spiritualist - or rather, strong advocate for spiritualism. He was neither agnostic, nor atheist. But he strongly defended the right of every human being to cut out the 'middleman' between the living and the departed on this earth. ...I mistrust faith, which is the biggest metaphor of all. I have done with faith. I can only work with the clear white light of knowledge... ..."The whole point of psychical research,” he explains, “is to eliminate and expose fraud and deceit. To leave only what can be scientifically confirmed. If you eliminate the impossible, what is left, however improbable, must be the truth. Spiritism is not asking you to take a leap in the dark, or cross a bridge you have not yet come to.” ... "God and the Jesus who are claimed by a Church which for centuries has been corrupt both spiritually and intellectually. And which demands of its followers the suspension of rational faculties." ... "If you look at what it actually says in the Bible, if you ignore the way in which the text has been altered and misinterpreted to suit the will of the established churches, it’s quite clear that Jesus was a highly trained psychic or medium. The inner circle of the Apostles, especially Peter, James and John, were clearly chosen for their spiritist capabilities. The ‘miracles’ of the Bible are merely—well, not merely, wholly—examples of Jesus’s psychic powers.” ...(Clergy) ...But it is what, historically, they have been. Middlemen, intermediaries. Conveyors of the truth at first, but increasingly controllers of the truth, obfuscators, politicians. The Cathars were on the right line, that of direct access to God untrammelled by layers of hierarchy. Naturally they were wiped out by Rome.” Arthur & George brings the persona alive. Not all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Only the part that is necessary to built the background to the internationally reported criminal case in which the famous and beloved creator of Sherlock Holmes took on the Victorian establishment after an innocent man, George Ernest Thompson Edalji, a Parsi English solicitor and son of a vicar in Great Wyrley, a South Staffordshire village, served three years' hard labour after being convicted on a charge of mutilating a pony. George(1876 - 1953) was of mix race with his mom a Scottish woman, Charlotte Edalji(née Stoneham), and his father,Reverend Shapurji Edalji, from India. This widely publicized, curious, and controversial case was one of the factors which played a role in establishing the Court of Criminal Appeal for England in 1907. (It was only in 2013 that the case against George Edalji was declared a farce by Solicitor-General Oliver Heald.) Alternative chapters introduced the backstories of both Arthur and George, leading up to this case. Part of Arthur's backstory included his murder and resurrection of his famous detective Sherlock Holmes. He is quite clear about the writer’s responsibilities: they are firstly, to be intelligible, secondly, to be interesting, and thirdly, to be clever. He knows his own abilities, and he also knows that in the end the reader is king. That is why Mr. Sherlock Holmes was brought back to life, allowed to have escaped the Reichenbach Falls thanks to a knowledge of esoteric Japanese wrestling holds and an ability to scramble up sheer rock faces. Julian Barnes disciplined himself by selecting only the biographical information needed for this novel, and skillfully, but cautiously, brought the two main characters alive. One can sense his deliberate effort to skim off the essentials, often losing colorful aspects of both persons's lives story in the process, resulting in a somewhat sterile, bleached, fact-based documentary novel. However, the emotions and passion came truly alive in the last third of the book when the drama was splashed all over the media, with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as the instigator of the vigorous debate and anger hitting the world. Three years after George Edalji was jailed, the famous and internationally beloved author threw his weight in behind George. The 10 000 letters of objection, including hundreds by lawyers, could not prevent George from going to jail. (A June 1907 memo by Home secretary Herbert Gladstone was discovered 80 years later, which revealed that one of the lawyers who had represented Edalji had privately told Gladstone of suppressing a letter by Edalji which his brother Horace had brought as a specimen of Edalji's handwriting because it was damaging to the defense's case. Source: Wikipedia ) But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got him pardoned, leaving the establishment red faced and embarrassed(1907). He used his Sherlock Holmes skills to get behind the truth: He read and reread, sorted and re-sorted, analysed, compared, annotated. Gradually, hints turned to suspicions and then to hypotheses. More than 115 years later his theories were confirmed. Like his visual of a underwater tunnel connecting France to Britain for which he had to endure ridicule, this case got him publicly lynched and slaughtered at the time, yet history proved him correct. In many ways the world was not ready for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle(1859-1930). However, he was ready for the world and he took 'them' on full throttle. So yes, with the mere instinctive tourism of infancy, I ventured into the novel and came out delighted, cleverly entertained and informed.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    It is all in the themes, I guess, and few writers write about themes that get under my skin in quite the same way that Barnes does. All the same, I’d better not run ahead of myself. This book is based on a true story. I had wondered if it was true as I was reading it and although I knew that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was more or less real (if somewhat larger than life) there was still the possibility that Barnes had just slotted him into a work of otherwise complete fiction to make some sort of poin It is all in the themes, I guess, and few writers write about themes that get under my skin in quite the same way that Barnes does. All the same, I’d better not run ahead of myself. This book is based on a true story. I had wondered if it was true as I was reading it and although I knew that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was more or less real (if somewhat larger than life) there was still the possibility that Barnes had just slotted him into a work of otherwise complete fiction to make some sort of point or other – probably to do with Sherlock Holmes. I knew nothing, of course, of George Edaliji, despite, it turns out, the important role his case proved in later legal history. Like in A Clockwork Orange, there are few fears greater than when incredibly stupid people have complete power over you. There is nothing more frightening than people who know something is the case, know it with all of their hearts. To be the victim of such irrational certainty is a terrifying idea – and one that occurs far too often in reality. It is hard not to love a story in which a great wrong is committed, particularly if there is then also hope of redemption. You know, Christianity would have remained just a curious little Jewish sect if it wasn’t for the aching need people have for redemption. The best of fiction, and this is the best of fiction, presents human redemption in a way that is much more convincing and, to me at least, much more moving than religion does. I suspect that I simply don’t have the imagination required to believe in humanity-wide redemption and can only cope with an individual level redemption. As I’m writing this review I’m trying to avoid needing to put a spoiler alert on it. Look, it is easy to find the story behind this novel: Wikipedia was where I turned when my curiosity got the better of me (fortunately, late enough in the novel for me to have worked out how this story was likely to pan out), but they are called spoilers for good reason. There were parts of this story which I was very glad I did not know what happened next beforehand. I was born with a rather bad astigmatism, so I have a natural affinity with anyone similarly afflicted. I also have spent the last eight years representing people who have found themselves in trouble and were unable to represent themselves. So, there were many parts of this book in which I saw myself reflected back at me (if in a slightly distorted mirror). The bits I’ve mentioned are the parts where this is easiest to mention, where it can be mentioned with some sense of self-satisfaction, at least in part. Where I saw myself and found it much harder to continue looking was around the relationship between Sir Arthur and Jane – particularly after his first wife died and his daughter told him that her mother said, on her deathbed no less, that he would be likely to marry again. I’ve played exactly these sorts of games too, and like everyone else who has played them, I’ve lost and won in much the same ways. Few writers capture the complexity of human relations – sexual as well as emotional - for me with quite the same shock of recognition that Barnes does. And then there’s death of course. Barnes has made a concerted effort over recent years to make this theme his own, as if he is laying claim to the kingdom of death in contemporary fiction. Or at least, the kingdom of thinking about the nature of death and why it haunts us so much. He reminds me of a modern day Montaigne. Montaigne said somewhere in his essays that his way of confronting the horrors of death was to think about it at least once a day – so that thereby he would make it familiar and so no longer something that needed to be feared. The scene at the end of this book where George confronts the ubiquity of death on a walk about a park on a pleasant Sunday evening is a lovely example of this most human and possibly inevitable of preoccupations. Holmes is also a constant shadow across this book. It is a strange thing – I nearly finished reading all of the Holmes stories recently, but one of the things that was completely clear was that Doyle didn’t enjoy writing them, particularly not the stories after Holmes came back from the dead. There is a snideness in the writing that needs to be ignored to really enjoy the stories. This is something Barnes makes clear in this book too. But he also plays with Holmes in other ways – this is, after all, a detective mystery and having Doyle in the staring role makes interesting comparisons inevitable. Perhaps my favourite part of the entire book is where Doyle spends a weekend with Captain Anson – and like Shakespeare, Barnes puts the most fascinating and thought provoking lines in the mouth of the least likeable character. The other thing this book does is make you think about how easy it is to put ideas into people’s heads and how hard it is to get those ideas out of your head again. Was George a sexual deviant? Was he too fond of his sister? How easy it is to pollute the mind of someone. And how easy it is for us to get carried away and to do too much for someone we want to help and thereby destroy whatever hope we had of truly helping them in the first place. And racism – of course, racism is a horribly obvious theme in this book, whether George admits it or not. You might find this book a bit slow, but it will get under your skin. Like the best fiction always does, it keeps coming into my mind and Barnes has handled these intricate and complex of themes in ways that can’t do anything other than fascinate.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    The eponymous Arthur is Arthur Conan Doyle, who is living in Edinburgh. George is the son of a Midlands vicar. The novel is set in late-Victorian Britain, and follows the lives of both boys through to adulthood. One follows Law, the other Medicine. One is a victim of a series of bizarre pranks; neither's destiny is what it first appears to be. For the first half of the book they are unaware of each other's existence. One experiences outrageous accusation, the other unrivalled success. One stands The eponymous Arthur is Arthur Conan Doyle, who is living in Edinburgh. George is the son of a Midlands vicar. The novel is set in late-Victorian Britain, and follows the lives of both boys through to adulthood. One follows Law, the other Medicine. One is a victim of a series of bizarre pranks; neither's destiny is what it first appears to be. For the first half of the book they are unaware of each other's existence. One experiences outrageous accusation, the other unrivalled success. One stands in the dock owing to a miscarriage of justice, whilst the other has the success he desired, but at a price. What is believed to be true may not be true. Faith, ambition, English reserve, honour, racism, self-recrimination and guilt all play a part. George Edalji has issues about his identity; he is a Parsee living in genteel Victorian society. How these two lives intertwine is intriguing and cleverly written, but there are passages about the mutilation of horses which are relentlessly cruel and upsetting. These may well be based on real-life events. The novel is pseudohistorical. This novel has a unique concept - that of following the life story of a famous celebrated writer, but giving equal weight to another person whose life history has been entirely forgotten.

  5. 5 out of 5

    A. Dawes

    Arthur & George is historical fiction at its best. This novel trails two lives, George an Anglo-Indian son of a vicar, and the famed author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. George, who is possibly on the Asperger syndrome spectrum, suffers racism and prejudice from the all-white English children (doesn't look like much has changed in parts of the UK today) at school. As an adult, little has changed in the small town as George is framed and sentenced for a crime that he has not committed. Arthur, who would Arthur & George is historical fiction at its best. This novel trails two lives, George an Anglo-Indian son of a vicar, and the famed author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. George, who is possibly on the Asperger syndrome spectrum, suffers racism and prejudice from the all-white English children (doesn't look like much has changed in parts of the UK today) at school. As an adult, little has changed in the small town as George is framed and sentenced for a crime that he has not committed. Arthur, who would appear manic or bi-polar in the modern era, sees a chance to become his own Sherlock Holmes type in real life and takes on the case gratis. Part of the secret to the success of the novel, I feel, is that Julian Barnes also wrote crime fiction for a while under an alias, and he really utilises those skills in Arthur & George. This novel is a wonderful exploration of the ideologies of the era, with deep characterisation. It moves seamlessly between multiple genre: from realist, to drama, to thriller, to crime, to courtroom drama. It's a marvelous work and a must-read for any lover of historical or literary fiction. It's magnificent.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    What a great premise for a work of historical fiction. Take a larger-than-life figure known to all, make him larger still, and overlay his story on top of one with little fame but deserving of more. The acclaimed character was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who turned out to be even more intriguing than his detective stories would suggest. From early days in Mam’s kitchen listening to chivalric tales of adventure, to heroics in sports and at war, Arthur liked thinking of himself as an honorable knight What a great premise for a work of historical fiction. Take a larger-than-life figure known to all, make him larger still, and overlay his story on top of one with little fame but deserving of more. The acclaimed character was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who turned out to be even more intriguing than his detective stories would suggest. From early days in Mam’s kitchen listening to chivalric tales of adventure, to heroics in sports and at war, Arthur liked thinking of himself as an honorable knight of the realm. Sherlock, if anything, is downplayed in this account while the events ultimately connecting Arthur to George are brought to the fore. Without tripping the spoiler alarm, I can say that George had a more stolid, less imaginative life growing up in a vicarage. His small bit of fame made quite a story, though. And thanks to Arthur, post-Victorian England came to know it. And thanks to Julian Barnes, we’ve come to know it, too. Barnes made the telling seem so effortless. He evoked the more formal era, but in a readable way. What’s more, he gave the characters plausible words and thoughts. It was well researched, clearly, often using personal letters as sources. The only reason I take a star away from an otherwise fabulous book is that an extrapolation in George’s thoughts at the end didn’t ring true for me. I strongly recommend 99.8% of this book, and I thank the astute Anglophile I married for recommending it to me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I find reading about real-life miscarriages of justice very disturbing, particularly when they occur in a country with a well-developed legal system in which the rule of law prevails. They make interesting reading, though, and this account of an early 20th century miscarriage of justice is no exception. It's made all the more interesting by the involvement of the “Arthur” of the title – Arthur Conan Doyle. The story should be better known, given its importance to the English legal system and the I find reading about real-life miscarriages of justice very disturbing, particularly when they occur in a country with a well-developed legal system in which the rule of law prevails. They make interesting reading, though, and this account of an early 20th century miscarriage of justice is no exception. It's made all the more interesting by the involvement of the “Arthur” of the title – Arthur Conan Doyle. The story should be better known, given its importance to the English legal system and therefore to legal systems based on the English system. While Arthur Conan Doyle, needs no introduction, I’d not heard of the “George” of the title previously. He is George Edalji, an Anglo-Indian solicitor and son of a clergyman. The narrative, in alternating chapters, follows the lives of both men from childhood onwards. It’s a well-written novel that in content, although not in style, reads like non-fiction. As far as I can gather from some cursory research on the interwebs, Barnes got the history right. Not much can be said about that history without going into spoilers. Suffice to say, the miscarriage of justice sees Edjali convicted or a crime he didn’t commit and Doyle involved in a campaign to exonerate him. Those aspects of the narrative were quite enough to ensure that the lawyer in me remained interested. However, this is also in effect a biography of Conan Doyle. I’ve read my fair share of Sherlock Holmes stories, but I’m not a die-hard fan and I wouldn't have gone out of my way to read a conventional biography of their author. There was a section in the middle of the book – dealing, if I remember correctly, with Conan Doyle’s marital woes – that I found less then totally compelling, but still interesting enough. I’ve not read Barnes before, although I’ve always meant to. I liked his prose a lot. I also liked the narrative structure, the evocation of time and place and the manner in which the two central characters are developed. However, in this case, it’s the book for me, rather than the author. While I don’t see myself racing off to read Barnes’ entire oeuvre, I very much enjoyed reading this sample of it. Anyone with an interest in the legal system will probably have a similar reaction.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    I give five stars sparingly, so I was torn between giving and "four" and a "five" here. Ultimately, though, when I considered that I'd put aside all other tasks one weekend to devote to finishing this book, I decided that this was five-star material. The last book I'd read by Barnes, England, England was a bit of a disappointment -- it came off, it seemed to me, like second-rate Tom Sharpe. But this book was a different matter. I especially liked the way it unfolded, alternating from one central I give five stars sparingly, so I was torn between giving and "four" and a "five" here. Ultimately, though, when I considered that I'd put aside all other tasks one weekend to devote to finishing this book, I decided that this was five-star material. The last book I'd read by Barnes, England, England was a bit of a disappointment -- it came off, it seemed to me, like second-rate Tom Sharpe. But this book was a different matter. I especially liked the way it unfolded, alternating from one central character to the other, shedding light on both in the process. I resisted going to the Internet to see if in fact Barnes had created the George character, and when, after finishing the book, I read that George was based on a real person, the creation of the character seemed even more impressive. There's a realism underpinning the book that speaks to -- how shall I put this? -- more mature audiences. Let's just say after fifty or so, a more measured approach to life emerges, and as such (speaking personally here), there's less patience with relentlessly upbeat or rosily romantic themes. Arthur and George resonates on a variety of levels, not the least of which is a clear-eyed appraisal of the nature of relationships - personal, romantic, and family. Finally, those interested in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods will be struck by how effortlessly Barnes puts the reader into that milieu.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Connie G

    The lives of two very different men intersected in the early 20th Century. Arthur Conan Doyle was the famous author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, a medical doctor, and a sportsman. George Edalji was the son of a Vicar from India. The extremely near-sighted man with a logical mind studied law. George was a victim of unfounded accusations, and convicted of a crime he did not commit. Racial prejudice and a web of speculation, rather than the truth, led to George's conviction. Arthur was upset w The lives of two very different men intersected in the early 20th Century. Arthur Conan Doyle was the famous author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, a medical doctor, and a sportsman. George Edalji was the son of a Vicar from India. The extremely near-sighted man with a logical mind studied law. George was a victim of unfounded accusations, and convicted of a crime he did not commit. Racial prejudice and a web of speculation, rather than the truth, led to George's conviction. Arthur was upset with the miscarriage of justice, and worked to clear George's name. The beginning of the book was very choppy with alternating short chapters about the boyhoods of each man, but the later chapters became longer and smoother. I enjoyed learning about the life of Arthur Conan Doyle, his family, the causes he championed, and his interest in spiritualism. George Edalji's story was told in great detail, and with compassion. The book explored themes of truth, honor, justice, racial prejudice, and faith. 3.5 stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    Revisited for the 2019 Mookse Madness tournament. A book I originally read for my Book Group in 2006 alongside re-reading a number of Sherlock Holmes stories: I would count myself as a Holmes fan having read all of the original adventures and short stories. This novel tells two stories from childhood – Arthur (Conan Doyle) and George Edalji – a half-caste son a Parsee Staffordshire vicar. George and his family do not mix with the community – partly from the prejudice they encounter but partly on h Revisited for the 2019 Mookse Madness tournament. A book I originally read for my Book Group in 2006 alongside re-reading a number of Sherlock Holmes stories: I would count myself as a Holmes fan having read all of the original adventures and short stories. This novel tells two stories from childhood – Arthur (Conan Doyle) and George Edalji – a half-caste son a Parsee Staffordshire vicar. George and his family do not mix with the community – partly from the prejudice they encounter but partly on his father’s strict views of proper behaviour. George is myopic and lonely – but trains as a solicitor and publishes a book on railway law. His family, as well as others in the parish are victims of a (or possibly several) hate campaigns. These cease for a long period but then resume with a series of livestock mutilations – the police always convinced that George was perpetrator of the initial hoaxes on his own family arrest him and he is convicted on circumstantial evidence and only released after several years and with no pardon despite a public outcry. Arthur – by then sick of Sherlock Holmes and at the time lethargic, finds his interest in life awakened by finally agreeing to take on one of the many cases that are sent to him unsolicited due to his fictional creation – and crusades on George’s behalf. We learn much about Arthur’s growing interest in spiritualism and belief that the 20th Century will provide a scientific breakthrough in understanding of the afterlife. The most interesting parts are when Arthur confronts the police chief with his clear view of George’s innocence and of the actual truth and is in turn confronted with the view that the real world of crime solving and jury-persuasion as well as the notions of guilt/innocence and of what it means to know something, are much greyer in real life than in the black and white world of Holmes. The book is written in different chapters from the viewpoint of different characters and in a kind of old-fashioned pseudo-biographical style (which is the same for all characters). The book is surprisingly gripping and definitely an enjoyable read – although the ending seemed an anti-climax – although partly this was I think deliberate making the very point about the lack of clear-cut endings in real life.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    What is better, a so-so book with a great ending, or a good book with a disappointing one? The latter for me, but I was let down, after enjoying this story all the way through, to have it end with such a whimper. Later I read that the story was true all the way, which did make me more understanding. It is about a miscarriage of justice in the early 20th century. George, a young solicitor of Indian origin, is falsely accused of killing a slew of horses in his area, and convicted. His defense is p What is better, a so-so book with a great ending, or a good book with a disappointing one? The latter for me, but I was let down, after enjoying this story all the way through, to have it end with such a whimper. Later I read that the story was true all the way, which did make me more understanding. It is about a miscarriage of justice in the early 20th century. George, a young solicitor of Indian origin, is falsely accused of killing a slew of horses in his area, and convicted. His defense is poor and both the police, legal establishment and jury is clearly racist. Later, after he has served his sentence but is prevented from going back to his profession, he appeals to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who enthusiastically takes up his case and gets him a pardon, though not as complete a one as a modern reader would like. We follow both Arthur and George from the beginning of their lives and become very attached to them as characters, which is why the lack of a ringing resolution is a let down. Also, various elements are not satisfactorily tied up, and the last scene is a kind of public seance that was held after Sir Arthur's death (he was a great believer in spiritualism, or spiritism, as he called it) and I couldn't figure out what it had to do with the main thrust of the book. But, as I said, that is a disadvantage of not being able to move away from facts. It was a wry, compassionate, often witty book and you come to care for the characters very much.

  12. 4 out of 5

    RJ from the LBC

    Barnes' novelized version of this true story about a Victorian-era miscarriage of justice certainly deserved being shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Impeccably researched, the tale is still told with the urgency and thoughtful development of fiction including richly developed characters and Barnes' usual exemplary prose that carefully and clinically examines the duality of each facet of the story. If there is a shortcoming it is a lack of emotional heft and impact, but that in no way should detr Barnes' novelized version of this true story about a Victorian-era miscarriage of justice certainly deserved being shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Impeccably researched, the tale is still told with the urgency and thoughtful development of fiction including richly developed characters and Barnes' usual exemplary prose that carefully and clinically examines the duality of each facet of the story. If there is a shortcoming it is a lack of emotional heft and impact, but that in no way should detract from the reader's delight at finishing such a brilliant gem.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Helle

    ‘A beautiful and engrossing work’ The Independent on Sunday claims on the cover of my book, and I would absolutely have to agree. Arthur & George was the kind of book I felt immersed in, its scope being impressive, its authenticity alluring and its style – in Barnes’s capable hands – a pleasure to spend hour after hour with. The title hints at a relationship between these two characters, but one which doesn’t get under way until about a third of the way into the book, maybe more. I had purposely ‘A beautiful and engrossing work’ The Independent on Sunday claims on the cover of my book, and I would absolutely have to agree. Arthur & George was the kind of book I felt immersed in, its scope being impressive, its authenticity alluring and its style – in Barnes’s capable hands – a pleasure to spend hour after hour with. The title hints at a relationship between these two characters, but one which doesn’t get under way until about a third of the way into the book, maybe more. I had purposely read little about it beforehand, knowing only that the Arthur in the title was Arthur Conan Doyle, and that it was based on a real story. So I had expected something else, friendship perhaps, which it isn’t quite. The less said the better, I feel, (if you haven’t read it, that is) so suffice it to say that it is about how members of a community and of the local police force unfairly pin the blame of anonymous letters and horse mutilations on an innocent man, George, and how Arthur Conan Doyle eventually swoops in to show what he is made of, and to show British justice what it is made of, in the process bonding – for a while – with a man who likewise feels that he is ‘an unofficial Englishman’. I didn’t immediately take to the book. It is long, in the beginning too long, I felt, but as I neared the point of convergence between Arthur and George, I realized that the long intro was necessary as background for what was to follow. I felt Barnes didn’t want to sacrifice authenticity or character development for narrative speed, but I likewise suspect it might deter younger readers, or readers who prefer a good, plot-driven yarn, which it only partly turned into about half way through. After that mid-way point, or a bit before probably, I found it difficult to put the book down. I have to say, though, that it helped being interested in Conan Doyle in the first place, which I was, and even more so because I had recently read some Sherlock Holmes stories. Barnes paints a sympathetic but complex picture of both main characters, and that is one of the major strengths of the book. Based on real documents, letters, newspaper articles etc., much of it is real, but much is made up and felt, to me, just as credible. I absolutely loved some of the conversations that took place between Arthur and George or between Arthur and the intelligent but prejudiced Captain Anson, and there were many places where I was touched at the lengths Conan Doyle would go to in the name of justice. Yet we are also told of his guilt when he falls in love with another woman, despite being married, and how he feels manacled to his own creation, Sherlock Holmes. Although the plot of the book surrounds the accusations, the trial and the repercussions, the theme is not only about the miscarriage of justice but also about how two extremely different lives and personalities came to meet, how they both felt marginalized in England despite the fame of one and the (unfair) infamy of the other, and – since it is Barnes – about death and the possible or impossible life in the hereafter. We are shown how Conan Doyle was a believer of spiritism, and how George was not, yet towards the end, before George says a final goodbye to Sir Arthur, he thinks this: "But when you stood in Hyde Park on a warm summer’s afternoon among thousands of other human beings, few of whom were probably thinking about being dead, it was less easy to believe that this intense and complex thing called life was merely some chance happening on an obscure planet, a brief moment of light between two eternities of darkness. At such a moment it was possible to feel that all this vitality must continue somehow, somewhere." Given Barnes’s preoccupation with death in other books I’ve read by him, I wonder if it isn’t his own uncertainties he is voicing here (cf. the fury of the resurrected atheist in his Nothing to be Frightened of). Arthur & George was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and was, to me, more satisfying to read than The Sense of an Ending, which won it, but really, I am left feeling that Barnes can take on most topics and most forms. I am in awe of his writing. 4,5 stars

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laysee

    “Arthur and George”, my fourth book by Julian Barnes, adopts a four-part structure and spans four hundred pages. I am, for the fourth time, impressed with his consummate skills in crafting intelligent, well-researched, beautifully written, and perfectly executed stories. With Barnes I know I can expect to be engaged by a good story and walk away with a greater awareness of what makes us human. Set in late 19th century England, “Arthur and George” is a magnificent pastiche of a real detective sto “Arthur and George”, my fourth book by Julian Barnes, adopts a four-part structure and spans four hundred pages. I am, for the fourth time, impressed with his consummate skills in crafting intelligent, well-researched, beautifully written, and perfectly executed stories. With Barnes I know I can expect to be engaged by a good story and walk away with a greater awareness of what makes us human. Set in late 19th century England, “Arthur and George” is a magnificent pastiche of a real detective story. Arthur is none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author who gave the world its much loved detective, Sherlock Holmes. Can the creator of Holmes solve a crime for real? Drawing upon authentic letters, newspaper quotations, government reports and proceedings in Parliament, Barnes introduced us to a legal case that made history but that few knew. In 1906, Arthur, a medical doctor by training, investigated a closed court case that led to the exoneration of George Edalji, a half-Scottish and half Indian lawyer, who was sentenced to seven years of penal servitude for writing threatening letters and mutilating animals in Great Wyrley. The case of George Edalji ostensibly paved the way for the eventual setting up of the Court of Appeals. (If you intend to read this novel, this is a good place to stop reading this review.) (view spoiler)[The story of Arthur and George is told alternately, like two separate train tracks, before they are skillfully and seamlessly merged. Parts I and II proceed very slowly as the distinct background of Arthur and George is fleshed out and offer the reader a grasp of their core identity. This is important as the strength of this story rests on our confidence in the integrity of the key characters, particularly George. In Barnes’ good hands, I derived much pleasure from being immersed in what life was like in Victorian England. I was entertained as well as horrified by anecdotes of the young boys’ school years. How dreadful to be young George in Mr. Bostock’s classroom where a pupil’s seating position is made to correlate with his performance – smart boys in front, dull boys behind. Poor George is seated in the back row. That is until his severe myopia opens the way to a front seat. And then because he can finally see, he is for the first time able to learn. Arthur’s classes with the Jesuit priests are not any less terrifying with lessons “endorsed by emphatic beatings.” An especially delightful account relates to young Arthur’s mother. I thought it lovely to attribute Arthur’s magnetic storytelling gift to his Mam who has regaled him with stories of knights and their chivalrous exploits while stirring his porridge. In time, young Arthur’s ability to spin a good yarn gains him popularity with his peers, pastries, and apples. We are told "Thus he discovered the essential connection between narrative and reward." Part III that centers on the Edalji case and drives the plot makes for compelling reading. I had difficulty putting the book down. What is the motive behind the vicious attacks to frame an innocent man? Why would a mild-mannered man with few acquaintances have enemies bent on ruining his career and reputation? Is it racially motivated? How ludicrous that he is convicted in the absence of evidence, motivation, and opportunity for him to commit the crimes of which he has been accused. The suspense and tension surrounding the mysteries of the shady dealings are very well sustained and by the time Sir Arthur Doyle enters the picture, expectations for George Edalji’s deliverance are raised to a feverish pitch. With Barnes, however, I surmise that this is more than the retelling of a detective story. In my view, this novel is an exploration of the theme of perception and its implications for human judgment and behavior. Interestingly, Sir Arthur is an ophthalmologist; George is "as blind as the proverbial bat". Sir Arthur has eyes afforded by his medical training to judge rightly at his first meeting with George. In his own words, "I do not think. I do not believe. I know." On the other hand, the police and the legal system perceive George as a half-caste, and attribute blame to the pull of his Parsee blood. On another level, Sir Arthur’s heavy involvement in spiritualism too taps into a different kind of perception that presumably cannot be accessed safe by faith in a farther reality. In the foreground is Edalji’s legal woes; in the background is Sir Arthur’s love story. It raises questions about what it means to live a life of chivalry and honor. Three years after Touie, his wife, becomes terminally ill, Sir Arthur falls in love with Jean Leckie. Arthur conducts himself as honorably as he can in his relationship with Jean; their meetings are carefully planned and kept chaste. Jean is his "mystical wife" while his wife lives. As I have learned from reading “Levels of Life”, few authors write about the complexities of love with as much understanding and empathy as Barnes. Sir Arthur himself is aware of the slippery slope from honor to dishonor. He keeps his rendezvous with Jean away from the glare of the public, but admits to having “confused safety with honour." The love story aside, most moving of all, of course, is the grit and tenacity with which Sir Arthur goes about clearing George’s good name – a testament to true honor. Finally, “Arthur and George” is a novel about being English. The root of Englishness, Sir Arthur believes, resides in "the long-gone, long-remembered, long-invented world of chivalry." To him, it is “the prerogative of the powerful." It is gratifying to see this code upheld. (hide spoiler)] Read “Arthur and George”. Five noble stars.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    My fifth Julian Barnes left me underwhelmed. Who would have thought? After all, I was raving about how amazing his writing was, how intelligent etc. Unfortunately, from the very beginning, I had an issue with the narrator of this audiobook. He wasn't terrible but not quite to my liking. I had no idea what the book was about before I started it. I liked the short alternate chapters corresponding to the two protagonists: George Edjali's and Arthur Conan Doyle, respectively. The two grew up in differ My fifth Julian Barnes left me underwhelmed. Who would have thought? After all, I was raving about how amazing his writing was, how intelligent etc. Unfortunately, from the very beginning, I had an issue with the narrator of this audiobook. He wasn't terrible but not quite to my liking. I had no idea what the book was about before I started it. I liked the short alternate chapters corresponding to the two protagonists: George Edjali's and Arthur Conan Doyle, respectively. The two grew up in different parts of Britain and had different trajectories. Of course, Arthur Conan Doyle became Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famous for writing the Sherlock Holmes novels. George Edjali became a solicitor who went to jail for harming a horse. It was all a huge misconduct of justice, at the beginning of the XXth century. The two finally come together towards the last quarter of the book, when Edjali asked for Conan Doyle's help to exonerate him. There's more action happening as we Conan Doyle takes on the task of discovering who was the actually quilty person. Truth be told, it was interesting enough, I've learnt a few things about Doyle, but it didn't have the wit, intelligent observations or even the elevated language I've come to expect from Barnes. So this is only getting a 3.5 stars.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    Arthur and George, two men who come of age in England in what might be described as genteel poverty at the end of the 19th century, end up with radically different experiences of life. When their lives intersect, they quietly make history. In the hands of this literary master, Arthur & George became so much more than a novel of historical fiction or of criminal investigation. Barnes creates psychologically vivid and complex characters. An interesting plot is narrated in striking prose. Arthur and George, two men who come of age in England in what might be described as genteel poverty at the end of the 19th century, end up with radically different experiences of life. When their lives intersect, they quietly make history. In the hands of this literary master, Arthur & George became so much more than a novel of historical fiction or of criminal investigation. Barnes creates psychologically vivid and complex characters. An interesting plot is narrated in striking prose.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    I've said I'm finished but I haven't really. I'm afraid I very quickly skim read the last third or more of this seemingly endless, verbose novel. I enjoyed the first section very much, learning about Arthur and George's early lives. The campaign against the Edaljis was intriguing and frustrating and George Edalji's court case was very well written, but that's where the pleasure ended for me. Thereafter progress slowed and slowed until I completely lost patience with the pace of the novel. I perse I've said I'm finished but I haven't really. I'm afraid I very quickly skim read the last third or more of this seemingly endless, verbose novel. I enjoyed the first section very much, learning about Arthur and George's early lives. The campaign against the Edaljis was intriguing and frustrating and George Edalji's court case was very well written, but that's where the pleasure ended for me. Thereafter progress slowed and slowed until I completely lost patience with the pace of the novel. I persevered, waiting for it to improve again, but it never did. 3 stars because I enjoyed at least half of it, mainly because it is based on a true story, but tonight I suddenly decided that life is too short to force myself to continue reading books that are making me resent the time spent with them. Before Barnes fans descend upon me in outrage, I appreciate that this book is probably just not my cup of tea. That's as fair as I can be.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Terence Hawkins

    I like Julian Barnes; I like Arthur Conan Doyle; I like historicals. I therefore expected to like Julian Barnes' historical about Arthur Conan Doyle. Unfortunately I was disappointed. The book concerns Doyle's years-long effort to exonerate an Indian solicitor----George--- accused of cattle mutilations in rural England. Bizarre enough, right? It's told in the form of intertwining third-person biographies of the title characters. Surprisingly, neither is terribly interesting. Doyle's little known I like Julian Barnes; I like Arthur Conan Doyle; I like historicals. I therefore expected to like Julian Barnes' historical about Arthur Conan Doyle. Unfortunately I was disappointed. The book concerns Doyle's years-long effort to exonerate an Indian solicitor----George--- accused of cattle mutilations in rural England. Bizarre enough, right? It's told in the form of intertwining third-person biographies of the title characters. Surprisingly, neither is terribly interesting. Doyle's little known obsession with the occult just makes him appear more of a Victorian boob, and George is just sad. The plot, confined as it is to reality, plods along through the arcana of 19th century British jurisprudence and as in life never comes to a satisfactory conclusion. As I say, I wanted to like this book, and I'm sorry I didn't.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shobhit Sharad

    "If a man cannot tell what he wants to do, then he must find out what he ought to do." I have tried reading non-fiction books many times but have never been able to go through one entirely. I would read them if there were more of them like Arthur and George, if more authors wrote like Julian Barnes, and if those books told me stories and were not merely compilation of facts. I loved how this book was written, how Arthur and George's lives were fleshed out, how I could really sympathise with Georg "If a man cannot tell what he wants to do, then he must find out what he ought to do." I have tried reading non-fiction books many times but have never been able to go through one entirely. I would read them if there were more of them like Arthur and George, if more authors wrote like Julian Barnes, and if those books told me stories and were not merely compilation of facts. I loved how this book was written, how Arthur and George's lives were fleshed out, how I could really sympathise with George's simple, yet proud; intelligent, yet naive; character. Arthur, who was as big a celebrity in those times as he is reverred now, seemed completely a person you could relate to, for most of the book. He was not ambitious, but active; with- as the author says- a right proportion of generosity and practicality. My opinion may be biased because of the English background, but the book commented upon many problems and dysfunctions of bureaucracy, which are relevant in my country as well (given that it once was under colonial rule). Apart from this, the author has touched religion, relationships, detective work, and more things, in just the right proportion. Two people were born and grew up and came alive in these few hundred pages, and I got attached to them. This is one of those books that remind me why I read books.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Well-written, feel good novel about a classic author and a misunderstood loner, taken into the world of late-victorian coming of age/courtroom drama/mystery. Is it just me, or are recent books taking on as many hats as they possibly can afford? I have to compare this one to Dan Simmons's Drood in a few ways... but of course this one is very much lighter to digest. Quite enjoyable.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    Julian Barnes is always entertaining and all of his books are very different. This is one of the most compulsively readable and centres on the stories of George Edalji, a British Indian lawyer who was the victim of a notorious miscarriage of justice, and Arthur Conan Doyle who campaigned to overturn the conviction. Intelligent, educational and highly enjoyable.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Deea

    update 31st of August 2015: Arthur & George Series - Premieres Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015 at 8/7c Not a typical Barnes, but a book in which the reader is maintained alert at all times. The author chose a famous English personality (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) to be one of the main characters. He, investigated in a manner which can only be attributed to the witty Sherlock Holmes, a series of anonymous menacing letters followed by a great number of attacks on the cattle of a village very close to Birmingham update 31st of August 2015: Arthur & George Series - Premieres Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015 at 8/7c Not a typical Barnes, but a book in which the reader is maintained alert at all times. The author chose a famous English personality (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) to be one of the main characters. He, investigated in a manner which can only be attributed to the witty Sherlock Holmes, a series of anonymous menacing letters followed by a great number of attacks on the cattle of a village very close to Birmingham. The whole story is based on a real case and turned into fiction with the talent of such great a writer as Barnes. The flow of the action is very interesting in itself, but even more interesting is the recreation of the Victorian social and political realities, the view regarding women's rights to vote, how corrupted the British legal system was at that time and the prejudiced way in which police was finding scapegoats and penally punishing them. I enjoyed the story a lot, but I was expecting the ending to be different. It, together with all the mumble-jumble from the last chapter on clairvoyance and the public seance after Sir Arthur's death disappointed me and put a negative print on the whole book. Buuuut, this is just me, maybe other people would find this ending very rewarding. The 3 stars shown above are actually 3 stars and a half.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hayes

    Beautifully written, the language kept me reading eagerly all the way through; however, this story is based on a true event in Arthur Conan Doyle's life and the ending, just like real-life endings, fizzled out. I wasn't really expecting a wrapped-up case like in a mystery novel, but I was left unsatisfied, wanting to know more. Which might not be a bad thing. I have Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters which I will read a little sooner than I had anticipated to try to to remedy this. Barnes does Beautifully written, the language kept me reading eagerly all the way through; however, this story is based on a true event in Arthur Conan Doyle's life and the ending, just like real-life endings, fizzled out. I wasn't really expecting a wrapped-up case like in a mystery novel, but I was left unsatisfied, wanting to know more. Which might not be a bad thing. I have Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters which I will read a little sooner than I had anticipated to try to to remedy this. Barnes doesn't really tell us much about ACD, or give us any real insights into his life, other than drawing out his courtship with his second wife for more pages than it was worth. , which brought the score to 3.5 stars. Further reflection leaves this at 3*

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lyubov

    Level of boredom after torturing myself to read 300 pages of this - 100% Will to live after torturing myself to read 300 pages of this - 0%

  25. 4 out of 5

    cameron

    This is one of those times I want to give 4.5 stars. This is a complex, multi leveled, engaging book of historical fiction. We follow Arthur from childhood through death (that's Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and George, an East Indian-English Vicar's son who is raised to be a sound person of character and a solicitor. Being a huge fan of Sir Doyle, I was surprised and delighted when I discovered who the young Arthur was. I try not to read the flyleaf summaries or long winded reviews until after I've r This is one of those times I want to give 4.5 stars. This is a complex, multi leveled, engaging book of historical fiction. We follow Arthur from childhood through death (that's Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and George, an East Indian-English Vicar's son who is raised to be a sound person of character and a solicitor. Being a huge fan of Sir Doyle, I was surprised and delighted when I discovered who the young Arthur was. I try not to read the flyleaf summaries or long winded reviews until after I've read a recommended book because they just give too much away. I can barely name all the thematic insights written into this book. Love, hate, survival, class, castes, racism, English hierarchy, identity, honor, truth and lies. (enough). It dragged a little in the middle but the beginning and end are well worth the read. I could not predict how I would feel about any character from chapter to chapter and revelation was always subtle and slow. No big Sherlock Holmes type discovery here. I find Julian Barnes to be a great writer but he's always a bit aloof for me to adore him. However, you are missing a unique view of the world if you don't read this. Definitely don't speed read it or you'll miss the point completely.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    What I remember about this was the contrast between Arthur and George, one larger than life, the other so slight I seem to have forgotten everything about him except that he was slight.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    Prior to reading this book I knew very little about Arthur Conan Doyle except that he quickly tired of Sherlock Holmes, killed him off, had to revive him in response to popular demand, and spent the last part of his life devoted to spiritualism. This is a fascinating and psychologically complex novel showing what seems to be an accurate image of the man, paired in alternate chapters with a similar depiction of George Edalji, a Parsi lawyer from Staffordshire, who because of his strangeness and s Prior to reading this book I knew very little about Arthur Conan Doyle except that he quickly tired of Sherlock Holmes, killed him off, had to revive him in response to popular demand, and spent the last part of his life devoted to spiritualism. This is a fascinating and psychologically complex novel showing what seems to be an accurate image of the man, paired in alternate chapters with a similar depiction of George Edalji, a Parsi lawyer from Staffordshire, who because of his strangeness and skin color was arrested, railroaded, convicted, and sentenced to seven years hard labor for a crime of which he was obviously innocent. Getting him a free pardon was one of Conan Doyle's many do-good causes during the latter part of his life, and it takes up most of the latter half of the book. But even more interesting to me than the fascinating and excruciating detail of Edalji's arrest and trial was the depiction of Edwardian life. I've always been dismissive of Conan Doyle's interest in spiritualism, but here it is put in the context of late 19th century science: Alfred Russel Wallace, the friend and co-discoverer of natural selection with Charles Darwin was a believer, as was William Crookes, "the man whose work in physics and chemistry is everywhere admired for its precision and truth. The man who discovered thallium, who spent years investigating the properties of rarefied gases and rare earths...Science is leading the way, and will bring the scoffers low as it always does. For who would have believed in radio waves? Who would have believed in X-rays? Who would have believed in argon and helium and neon and xenon, all of which have been discovered in the last years? The invisible and the impalpable, which lie just below the surface of the real, just beneath the skin of things, are increasingly being made visible and palpable." I was also surprised at Conan Doyle's Edwardian sense of masculine honor and decorum--he had a mistress for nearly 10 years while his wife was slowly dying of tuberculosis, but he never had sex with her until they finally married a decorous year after his first wife's death. The author makes this entirely believable, even to an early 21st century reader steeped in an environment of casual sex. I'm now much more able to believe that Charles Dickens may never have had sex with Ellen Ternan, in spite of his desperate love for her. Everywhere this book seemed thorough, sensitive, and even-handed, showing both main characters "warts and all." And it was also an exciting page-turner.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I had the opportunity of reading the book by Julian Barnes, and seeing the video of Arthur and George played by Martin Clunes and Charles Edwards. Both types were very interesting, and though they were created slightly different, they were both well done. Arthur & George, by Julian Barnes, is a historical novel about two real men, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and George Edalji. Barnes's narrative covers both lives, switching back and forth between the families, childhoods, professions, and personal af I had the opportunity of reading the book by Julian Barnes, and seeing the video of Arthur and George played by Martin Clunes and Charles Edwards. Both types were very interesting, and though they were created slightly different, they were both well done. Arthur & George, by Julian Barnes, is a historical novel about two real men, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and George Edalji. Barnes's narrative covers both lives, switching back and forth between the families, childhoods, professions, and personal affairs of each man. However, there is something about George Edalji's life that keeps it from being an ordinary one: George is accused, tried, and convicted of a heinous crime that he did not commit. In fact, the charges are so ridiculous that they are literally hard to fathom. Racial prejudice most certainly was at the root of George's extreme misfortune, but George was too naive and too logical to be able to imagine this. After all, he was a native Englishman and a solictor--an educated man. His father, Shapurji Edalji, was the Vicar of Wyrley, and his mother was from a nice English family. In 1903, George Edalji was sent to prison and served three years of a seven-year sentence. He could not practice law, had to let the police know where he was all the time, and was considered an ex-convict. Many people knew he was innocent, and wrote letters to the papers and started petitions, all to no avail until George wrote to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in the hope that a famous writer could help him get a free pardon and a normal life. And so they met, and two very different worlds and minds collided. Both characters are drawn in lavish detail in this fascinating, true story. What I found most interesting was George's astute perceptions about Arthur, his interest in spiritualism, and the contradictions it posed. In any case, Barnes has painted George Edalji as a very appealing character, one that I enjoyed meeting. Recommend.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    I adored this book. It's difficult to review without giving away what Barnes, for the first 100 pages, kept a delightful secret, although I'm sure most reviewers haven't tried to do the same. For me, this was a gloriously readable combination of fact and fiction, in the vein of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher but with more artistic license taken; a story so strange, one that gripped the whole newspaper-reading English nation in its time, yet which has been largely forgotten today. This fascinates me I adored this book. It's difficult to review without giving away what Barnes, for the first 100 pages, kept a delightful secret, although I'm sure most reviewers haven't tried to do the same. For me, this was a gloriously readable combination of fact and fiction, in the vein of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher but with more artistic license taken; a story so strange, one that gripped the whole newspaper-reading English nation in its time, yet which has been largely forgotten today. This fascinates me. Barnes's writing style is effortless, enjoyable, something to indulge in. I couldn't put this book down. The history, the outrageous false-accusation, the mystery, the characters! His research was clearly impeccable, yet never overshadowed the telling of a story. The true mastery here is the creation of beginnings, middles, and ends where there were none - as we are often told, real life isn't like a book, and doesn't fit neatly into these categories - without it feeling like a stretch. Getting inside the heads of characters who were real people and not feeling like it was a bad 'unauthorised biography' was a decadent experience. There really isn't much to say, it's an indescribable sort of book. All I can say is, definitely my top book so far this year. Your life will be richer for reading it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vikki

    Not the worst book I've ever read, but I had high expectations going into it and unfortunately I was let down. I think this is because I found the book to be very slow going and filled with many unnecessary details. Although a fictional telling based on real events, I think that some of the information could have been condensed.

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