Arthur and George

Arthur and George

Book - 2005
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Winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2011

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 & George will surely find him an entirely new audience.

Publisher: Jonathan Cape,� 2005
ISBN: 9780224077033
0224077031
Branch Call Number: AF BARN

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wyenotgo
May 09, 2016

Not quite four stars, largely because of its uneven pace and anti-climactic ending. The book takes a very long time to reveal how the lives of Arthur and George finally intersect. My point being that much of the book is taken up with matters such as Arthur's marital issues and his devotion to spiritism, both of which are essentially irrelevant. I concede that George's unusual upbringing and odd personality do have a bearing on what happens to him and therefore merit the amount of space devoted to those details.
What really made this a worthwhile read is its exploration of the monumental stupidity of the police, combined with the determined racism of those in control of the English "justice" system of the day. To cap it off, the steadfast refusal of the authorities to admit that anyone had done anything wrong or even to offer an apology, let alone compensation to the victim. A cautionary tale, so be sure. A positive outcome was that the case provided impetus toward the establishment of a court of appeal.
Barnes' somewhat old-fashioned style of writing may not appeal to many readers of our day, but it's appropriate to a story set at the height of the Victorian era; it's not a quick read, demands some patience but it held my attention in spite of its shortcomings.

multcolib_susannel Oct 09, 2015

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is drawn into a case involving murdered animals, threatening letters and relentless bullying. Based on a real crime.

l
LazyNeko
Jan 28, 2012

The story about the incredible injustice done to George is gripping, but it doesn't mesh all that well against the biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Still, it's fun to read a portrayal of Sherlock Holmes's creator in action and on a real case.

jgoody Dec 29, 2011

"A boy sees". It's one of the first lines you read in this book. Immediately you become enthralled into the story of Arthur and George. Julian Barnes wrote this novel in a most eloquent and sophisticated manner. His story took me to a comfortable England. Arthur is always the heroine yet always seeks more. Edalji is so on the straight and narrow that he never sees the way that people can be so malicious. I absolutely loved this book! It was a delight to know that much of the story was based on the real life events of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji...very much a treat! Great read!

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Nikchick
Jun 27, 2011

A compelling novelization of a real world mystery, Barnes does a great job bringing these historical figures to life.

h
Hadley
Nov 19, 2008

A fascinating story, based on historical events, and probably Barnes' most accessible book.

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LazyNeko
Jan 28, 2012

Life. How easily everyone, including himself, said the word. Life must go on, everyone routinely agreed. And yet how few asked what it was, and why it was, and if it was the only life or the mere amphitheatre to something quite different. Arthur was frequently baffled by the complacency with which people went on with... with what they insouciantly called their lives, as if both the word and the thing made perfect sense to them.

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