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Arthur & George Hardcover – January 10, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (January 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030726310X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307263100
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #695,355 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

A real tour de force from masterful author Julian Barnes is Arthur & George, which was short-listed for the 2005 Man Booker Prize. Late-Victorian Britain is brought to vivid life in the true story of the intersection of two lives: one an internationally famous author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the other, an obscure country lawyer, George Edalji, son of a Parsi Midlands vicar and a Scottish mother. They start out very differently. Arthur pursues a career in medicine before he discovers that he is really a writer; George, on his way to becoming a lawyer--near-sighted, timid and friendless--is victimized by locals because he is easy to scapegoat--a half-Indian in lily-white Great Wyrley.

The victimization of George takes the form of nasty letters, the theft of a school key, and finally, the accusation that he has mutilated animals. Meanwhile, Arthur is becoming more and more famous for creating Sherlock Holmes, whom he tries to kill off once and is forced to resurrect because of his fans' outcry. He marries, fathers two children and then, when his wife is invalided by consumption, falls madly in love for the first time with Jean Leckie.

The novel's style is smoothly revelatory. We slowly come to realize that George is half-Indian, that Arthur is the famous Doyle, that the woman he loves, chastely, is not his wife and, sadly, that George will not prevail over the forces ranged against him.

When George, desperate to resume his law career after imprisonment, sends Arthur the sad chronicle of his history, Arthur sees immediately that he could not be guilty and sets out to clear his name. This case of George's lifts Arthur from the slough of despond into which he has sunk after his wife, Touie, dies. He is guilt-ridden, constantly wondering if he was attentive enough, if she could possibly have known about Jean. Realizing the immense injustice George has suffered, he is shaken out of lethargy and, in Holmesian fashion, sets out to solve the case.

Julian Barnes is a gifted writer of enormous accomplishment. This novel is thoroughly engrossing, filled with Barnes's trademark themes of identity and love, longing and loss, and ultimately, an examination of man's inhumanity to man. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.
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Customer Reviews

The novel is disjointed, too long, plodding, and lacking in a satisfying ending.
This novel is based on a true story, which brought together the lives of two notable characters, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji.
Guillermo Maynez
I was very impressed with how carefully it was written, how real the characters seemed, and the truly unusual story that developed.
Reading Fan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Bart King on April 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Although I'm aware of his reputation, I have never read Julian Barnes before. But I could tell from the beginning of this book that I was in the hands of a master. In ARTHUR AND GEORGE, Barnes writes very convincingly in a Victorian Age style. His book describes the parallel experiences of George Edalji, a methodical Englishman of East Indian descent, and Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Peer of the Realm, and sportsman.

This book is based on a true story of how George's legal predicament evolved into a landmark case regarding appeals. I am reluctant to reveal plot details for fear of spoiling anyone's enjoyment of the tale. Rest assured that the book is abominably clever, and Barnes has a real gift for slipping in details that reveal much to the observant reader.

I will warn of two things, however. First, this book employs a good deal of exposition, particularly in the early going. Stick with it, as once the background is painted in, Barnes does marvelous things moving the tale forward.

My other concern is that the book does lag badly at its mid-point mark. Although the two protagonists are quite different, Doyle is oddly the less interesting of the two characters at that stage. We come to admire George and his steadfastness, while we come to see Doyle as a man constantly on the move, seemingly trying to escape from under the heel of his own repressed virility. (Boy, I never thought I'd write a sentence like that.)

These cavils aside, a brilliant book. I'm glad to have read it.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By JAD on February 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
In ARTHUR AND GEORGE, author Julian Barnes presents the intersection of two lives - one successful and celebrated the other obscure -- until a strange conjunction of events propels each of them into the glaring spotlight of the British judicial system. The famous person is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; the unknown and ill-served man is George Edalji, the son of a Parsee Anglican Clergyman and his Scottish wife. Edalji is accused and convicted of a series of barbaric attacks on farm animals, incarcerated, and after several years in prison, released but not exonerated.

Enter the recently-widowed creator of Sherlock Holmes, who decides to use the same skills of his fictional detective in a quest to absolve Edalji and solve the crime. Utilizing both facts and deduction, as well as modicum of subterfuge and a healthy dose of influence, Conan Doyle sets to work on cracking the case.

Author Barnes has done a superb job of researching this true crime story--which at the time rivaled the Dryfuss case in France. Long-since forgotten by the cavalcade of history, the circumstances are revived and reviewed by Barnes in a thoroughgoing manner. He allows the reader to garner the impressions and facts that have guided his research into the crime, and is scrupulously accurate in his account of these two men and their contemporaries.

It makes for an often riveting narrative--and is "so adventurous a tale it may rank with most romances" as W. S. Gilbert might have put it. The reader follows the surprising twists and illuminating turns, and is deeply sympathetic to both Arthur and George, men whose lives are anything but ordinary, as well as to all the main characters in the novel.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By C. Matthew Curtin on June 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Arthur & George is the story of two boys who came of age in late Victorian England. One became a celebrity author; the other, a humble solicitor whose claim to fame should have been a treatise on railway law. We follow their lives from early childhood to the end, experiencing life with them in a time and place far removed from the western world in the twenty-first century.

Julian Barnes weaves for us a story, one scene at a time that helps us to realize who Arthur and George are. One man was famous; the other became infamous. One man was widely considered what is best in Englishmen; the other was "not the right sort." One was a man of faith in the unseen; the other a man of faith in himself. One helped to clear the name of a fellow countryman; the other could not clear his own name unaided.

In Arthur & George, we are granted a glimpse into the psyche of men, the struggle to balance our desires with what we want to be and the hope that personal integrity will ultimately prove stronger than whatever adversity we face. Barnes explores a thought quite dear to my heart: justice can be denied but character will endure. Men of good character--of strong character, who have not surrendered to the prejudices of others--will not be defined by their circumstances; men of substance will always (if belatedly) be known for who they are. Or, as Horace Greeley said,

Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, money takes wings, those who cheer you today may curse you tomorrow. The only thing that endures is character.

Barnes is a wonderful storyteller and reading his prose is a pleasure. To read Arthur & George is to visit another place and time and to discover that for however things change in the world around us, things remain very much unchanged in matters of defining who we are.
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