Editorial Reviews for this title:
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.
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
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