Wednesday, July 18, 2007

BOOK: Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

I am so glad I just finished reading The Hound of the Baskervilles. At times I felt I was reading Arthur Conan Doyle's biography, and the line between fiction and nonfiction has become very blurred for me. Much of what I read will become my belief about Doyle, even though I know it shouldn't. Barnes writes in a note at the end of the book that quotes and excerpts from newspapers are all factual.

This is the story of two men, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji, one a famous writer, and one a quiet solicitor wrongly accused of a crime. I found the prose compelling and enthralling as I read the life story of both men, and how they eventually met, and how their stories became entwined. Doyle comes off as priggish and arrogant as his character, Sherlock Holmes. Edalji, son of a Parsee Vicor, is very British as well, with his stiff upper lip and resignation to his fate.
Barnes is very ambitious with his story, and I quite enjoyed it. It felt a little weak at the end, as he tried to connect the ideas of faith, and spiritism and the characters. It was rushed in content and yet slow at the same time. However, overall, a great read, with meticulous details and a wonderful telling of an obscure event in British history. Barnes is now two for two with me, having read and enjoyed A History of the World in 10.5 Chapters.

from the Guardian (UK) " Arthur & George is Julian Barnes's inventive account of a true and important miscarriage of justice... What Barnes adds to the tale--it was cause celebre of its day--is imagination, insight, passion, and of course his beautiful writing."


  1. I read this book when it first came out over here in the U.S. and quite enjoyed it. I agree with your assessment, though, that the ending feels a bit contrived and ... well, weird.

  2. I'll be reading this for the NYT Notable Challenge, too. Great review, and good to hear "10.5 Chapters" is good, too, because I recently found a copy tucked away in some old moving boxes!

  3. I've had this one on my wish list for a while, but haven't gotten my mitts on it, yet. Glad you enjoyed it, in spite of the ending.

  4. Here's another book that is languishing on the shelf. I really should get to it but then there's all those others. Thanks for the review.

  5. I enjoyed "Arthur and George," too, and agree with you that ending is the least satisfactory part of it. If you're looking for another Julian Barnes novel, I highly recommend "England, England."


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