BookBrowse Reviews Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

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Arthur & George

by Julian Barnes

Arthur & George by Julian Barnes
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2006, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2006, 512 pages

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An utter astonishment that captures an era through one life celebrated internationally and another entirely forgotten. Novel/Historical Fiction

From the book jacket: 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.

Comment: Having read many glowing reviews about Arthur & George when it was first published in the UK last July, I have to admit that my initial impression on reading the first few pages was to wonder what all the fuss was about.  Undoubtedly, I thought, it's a well-told story but can anything live up to the sort of reviews it had received?  Then all of a sudden I found myself caught up - hook, line and sinker - in this truly riveting novel about Arthur Conan Doyle (who is quite different to his famous character, Sherlock Holmes) and George Edalji. 

If I'm forced to pick just one book to recommend above the others this week - it would be Arthur & George. (published this month in hardcover in the USA, and paperback in the UK).

"Starred Review. 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.

"From the first paragraphs we know ourselves to be in the hands of a major novelist and are borne forward by a compelling narrative, beautifully controlled, which combines the satisfactions of biography, social history and the excitement of a real-life detective story. This novel is Barnes at his best." - The London Times - PD James.

This review is from the February 3, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.



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