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Arthur & George

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Arthur and George grow up worlds and miles apart in late nineteenth-century Britain: Arthur in shabby-genteel Edinburgh, George in the vicarage of a small Staffordshire village. Arthur becomes a doctor, and then a writer; George a solicitor in Birmingham. Arthur is to become one of the most famous men of his age, George remains in hardworking obscurity. But as the new century begins, they are brought together by a sequence of events which made sensational headlines at the time as The Great Wyrley Outrages. George Edjali's father is Indian, his mother Scottish. When the family begins to receive vicious anonymous letters, many about their son, they put it down to racial prejudice. They appeal to the police, to no less than the Chief Constable, but to their dismay he appears to suspect George of being the letters' author. Then someone starts slashing horses and livestock. Again the police seem to suspect the shy, aloof Birmingham solicitor. He is arrested and, on the flimsiest evidence, sent to trial, found guilty and sentenced to seven years' hard labour. Arthur Conan Doyle, famous as the creator of the world's greatest detective, is mourning his first wife (having been chastely in love for ten years with the woman who was to become his second) when he hears about the Edjali case. Incensed at this obvious miscarriage of justice, he is galvanised into trying to clear George's name. With a mixture of detailed research and vivid imagination, Julian Barnes brings to life not just this long-forgotten case, but the inner lives of these two very different men. The reader sees them both with stunning clarity, and almost inhabits them as they face the vicissitudes of their lives, whether in the dock hearing a verdict of guilty, or trying to live an honourable life while desperately in love with another woman. This is a novel in which the events of a hundred years ago constantly set off contemporary echoes, a novel about low crime and high spirituality, guilt and innocence, identity, nationality and race; about what we think, what we believe, and what we know. Julian Barnes has long been recognised as one of Britain's most remarkable writers. While those already familiar with his work will enjoy its elegance, its wit, its profound wisdom about the human condition, Arthur and George will surely find him an entirely new audience. Hide synopsis

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Reviews of Arthur & George

Overall customer rating: 3.000
bookgeek

A look into the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

by bookgeek on Apr 3, 2007

This is an interesting piece of historical fiction. It's a very interesting look at an aspect of English Society in the Victorian era that most people don't think about. Both George and Arthur are well written, and are written in very different styles. I really enjoyed watching them both mature over the course of their lives. When the secret about George's family history was revealed, it was a delightful moment of realization. Both narratives were very compelling, and I really enjoyed when George and Arthur finally met. The blend of fiction and history seemed very plausible. I really enjoyed learning more about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's personal life through this book. George's feelings of isolation and fear are beautifully described in this book. I think the themes of race and social status in this book are extremely relevant today. I'm not sure I'll be re-reading this one for a while. It was very good, but I don't feel compelled to read this one again right away. I'd recommend this book to fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, people who are interested in race/class dynamics, people who are interested in looking at Victorian England from a new perspective, and anyone who has ever felt alone, powerless, and scared.

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