Arthur & George

by Julian Barnes

Hardcover, 2006

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Knopf, 2006.

Description

Arthur & George is based on the true story of two men. One is Arthur Conan Doyle, the other is George Edalji, a solicitor from Birmingham. Their nineteenth-century lives are worlds and miles apart, until a series of shocking events brings them together. In dubious circumstances, George is found guilty of harming animals and is sentenced to seven years' penal servitude, a future of ignominious obscurity. However, when Arthur, who is now one of the most famous men in the land as creator of Sherlock Holmes, hears of this racist miscarriage of justice he decides to clear George's name. Told against the backdrop of Arthur's family life, his own passionate affair with the woman who was to become the second Lady Conan Doyle and his wife's lengthy battle with TB, this extraordinary novel is a dazzling exercise in detection.… (more)

Media reviews

Barnes’s suave, elegant prose — alive here with precision, irony and humaneness — has never been used better than in this extraordinary true-life tale, which is as terrifically told as any by its hero Conan Doyle himself.
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For all the numerous retellings of Conan Doyle's life, it is hard to imagine that Barnes's semi-fictional version could be bettered in texture or acuity. In his elegant mini-chapters, he unpacks the writer's extraordinary rites of passage: his famous failure as an ophthalmologist; his work on a whaling ship; his sporting prowess - batting for the MCC, skiing Alpine passes; his heroism in the Boer War.

User reviews

LibraryThing member cameling
Historical fiction about lives of the renown Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a lesser known individual, solicitor George Edalji. One was the son of a strong mother who drove in him a deep sense of family history, honor and chivalry. The other was the son of a pastor who instilled in him a strong rooting in religion and what it means to be an Englishman....despite his mixed heritage.
One goes on to study medicine and become a world famous writer, but loves a woman not his wife. The other, on his way to becoming a solicitor, becomes the victim of increasingly nasty anonymous letters and a suspect in the vicious maiming of farm animals. In an act of desperation to clear his name and restore his rightful place in his profession, George seeks our Arthur and presents him with his case, and this intersection of their paths result in changes in both their lives.

The book contains excerpts from letters and newspaper articles and Julian Barnes weaves these smoothly into his fictionalized take on the the personal experiences of both these men. Apart from the rich story, what's incredible is the degree to which he exposes the inner strength that exists in some people even in the face of unbearably unfair treachery, where they draw their strength from, how love can fuel a person to greatness, and how a person's integrity can slide because of an enormous desire for something beyond his reach, and the false sense of comfort one feels when one lives in denial of the truth.
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LibraryThing member Kushana
This is a well-researched and carefully written work of historical fiction posing as literary fiction: both of the protagonists lived -- although this fact is only slowly revealed. (One would be recognized by any reader in the English language, the other perhaps should be just as famous.)

A good counterpoint to [Mistress of the Art of Death], another work of historical fiction that points to a related historical milestone (honest.)

However, if this were one of my students' papers I would have written "Get to the point" in the margin. This book can safely be read by skipping the first half (or at least the first third). Starting when the protagonists were small children did not add much to the story. Most of the action (and the plot) are in the last half of the book (unless you like lots of historical detail as atmosphere: some readers do.)

There were also several moments when the author seemed to be showing off how much research he had done; at points I wanted to read the non-fiction book he could have written, instead. As a professional historian I know what good research can and cannot do, but there is no need to put blinking arrows pointing at the minutiae one has dug up. I knew something of one of the protagonist's life, and more about the four religions mentioned (including, as background, the Zoroastrians (or Parsis)) but at several places I felt Mr. Barnes was showing off. (Good research, like [[Mary Renault]]'s does not shout and wave its arms.) I read people showing off their grasp of minutiae all day: this is something that irks me when it appears in my time off.

That said, if you like Victoriana; if you are interested in the history of minorities (and women) in Britain; if you like the history of trains, railroads (or railway law); if you would like to know more about the life of a famous figure; if you want to learn about the history of the British legal system (less dull than it sounds); or if you would like to try guessing at who the two protagonists are then I would recommend this long and carefully thought-out telling of a piece of history.

-Kushana
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LibraryThing member catherinestead
A Booker short-listed book that I actually liked. Wonders will never cease.

Arthur, the son of an alcoholic, has a difficult childhood and grows up to become a doctor; George, the son of a vicar, has a different kind of difficult childhood and grows up to become a solicitor. Arthur is torn between his duty to his invalid wife and his love for another woman; George is torn between his loyalty to his family and his desire to leave his parents' home and to marry. Arthur ends up doing more writing than doctoring; George ends up being suspected of mutilating farm animals - and it's this pair of circumstances that bring them together. Their acquaintance is short, but it has a profound effect on the lives of both men.

I adored the writing, and the vividness of the characters. The slow revelation of the story and the build-up of layers of characterisation was impressive. The tension was well-sustained and there were some very poignant moments towards the end.

Very highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
This book was a Booker Prize finalist, and a 2006 New York Times Notable Book, so what took me so long to read it? It kept calling to me everytime I visited a bookstore, and after a while I finally gave in and bought it in a "3 for 2" sale at Borders. Even then it took a while to reach the top of my TBR pile, but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Arthur and George is the story of two men from very different backgrounds, whose lives become entwined in a most unusual way. Arthur is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. George Edalji is a solicitor who is wrongly imprisoned for crimes committed in his village. The characters are first introduced as boys. Arthur is the son of an alcoholic father, who is largely absent. His mother figures prominently in his life, and Arthur seemingly wants for nothing. George, the son of a vicar, grows up in a repressive environment with virtually no friends. Arthur moves through education and military service with ease, marries, and joins London society. George struggles to establish himself as a solicitor in Birmingham, while continuing to live with his parents. George begins to receive anonymous, threatening letters, and at the same time village livestock are being brutally murdered in the middle of the night. George is accused and convicted of these crimes, and serves a 3-year prison sentence. Meanwhile, Arthur leads a prosperous life, although his wife has become an invalid and his true love waits patiently for the inevitable to occur.

Arthur and George do not meet until more than halfway through the book, when Arthur becomes interested in George's case, and begins to investigate what really happened. While initially a character study, at this point the book begins to read more like a detective novel, and I was unable to put it down. Barnes held my interest throughout this book with his deft turns of phrase (my favorite: "They squelched through the consequences of a herd of cows..."), and his use of authentic letters and newspaper accounts from the period. Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member baswood
I find Julian Barnes a clever thoughtful writer who can adapt to various writing styles. Of the four books I have read by him my favourite has been Flaubert's Parrot where Barnes' love for things French and his well researched background on the life of Gustave Flaubert shone through. Arthur and George is in a similar vein to his Flaubert book in that it takes as its basis an historical event involving a famous author: in this case Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and fleshes out the story by imagining the thoughts and actions of the characters involved. The author adds his own perspective to the events and so the reader is treated to his informed views of his subjects and these must ring true for an enjoyment of the book. It all worked pretty well for me.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously took up the case of George Edalji, who had written to him claiming he was the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice. George had been convicted of maiming animals in and around the village of Wyrley in Staffordshire. He had been sentenced to 7 years penal servitude, but had been released after serving three years. George was a working solicitor and the son of the local vicar, he was of Indian descent and being a shy man kept himself to himself. He seemed to have a watertight alibi for the charge in question and much of the evidence against him was circumstantial. This is the only known case where Sir Arthur used his skills as a writer of detective fiction to research and re-investigate an actual criminal offence.

Julian Barnes introduces his two main subjects by providing a biography of each in alternate short passages. The reader has to wait for well over half the book for the first meeting between the two. Barnes by this time has fixed the contrasting characters firmly in his readers mind. The rich, successful, gentleman adventurer that is Conan Doyle and the slightly repressed unambitious solicitor scraping a living in the Midlands that is George. Two men who have little in common socially, but come together, because one of them writes to the other and finds a recipient whose interest and humanity is piqued by an injustice. The reader is well aware of the events in George's life by this time, especially the circumstances that have led to his conviction. Barnes takes the readers through George's trial almost point by point. If the aim of this passage is to stir up in the reader a sense of injustice, then the amount of detail used tended to numb the effect for me. The writing is prosaic and this would be my main criticism of the novel, Barnes is so intent on explaining why things happened he does not always spark emotion in the reader. It is if he is writing a Victorian Detective novel.

Arthur and George held my interest, but only just. I felt that the novel was overlong and there was too much detail. Perhaps because he had chosen such an unemotional character in George this was necessary and because Conan Doyle strove to uphold gentlemanly values at all times this made both his characters; too one dimensional. I found myself yearning for something to shake these people out of the ruts that had been chosen for them, however as this novel is based on historical facts this was not going to happen. I found myself wondering if these events warranted such a biographical approach and so 3.5 stars.
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LibraryThing member tobiejonzarelli
Arthur & George is an masterful novel based on the true story of two fascinating people and actual events that occurred in Britan. It is hard to describe this book without being a plot spoiler! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes investigates a criminal case, that appears to be a gross miscarriage of justice, centering around George Edalji. George is the somewhat naive son of a Parsee vicar of a small English church and a Scottish mother. George has no friends, he is shy, quiet and reserved, and is quite a study in contrast to the ever popular Arthur. Barnes unveils the history of these two characters in short staccato bursts, revealing each character's boyhood, development and eventual occupation, until finally their lives overlap. It is not only a story of victimization, it is a story of love, loss and what it means to be different - even if you don't believe you are - in an often cruel world. Surprisingly, it was George I admired more, when all was said and done. His quiet stoicism is often the metal which gets us all through life. Arthur & George is a great read, although the beginning chapters were making me slightly dizzy from the machine gun pace of developing their characters, eventually it slows down and becomes so engrossing that you have to continue to turn each page. I highly recommend it. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Julian Barnes is a great storyteller, I will be adding his other works to my wishlist.… (more)
LibraryThing member BobNolin
The first third of the book reads just like a biography. It's dry, bloodless, and should have stayed just as a historical, like "Devil in the White City." It's certainly not much as a novel. I really had no feeling for Doyle, what he was like, and no idea how he just--out of the blue--invented forensic detective stories. He was a doctor, Jim, not a writer! How'd he do that? Barnes takes a page or two to get him from nobody to famous. The actual story of his rise is probably really interesting, I bet. You won't find it here, though. And George is not a sympathetic character at all. Very hard to like. Perhaps, as an American, I'm missing the cultural background that is engrained into the British psyche. I have this sort of problem with other Bookers, too. I tend to steer clear of them now. Got about a third of the way through and lost interest.… (more)
LibraryThing member Stevil2001
Arthur & George intertwines the stories of two historical figures: Arthur Conan Doyle, who you all know, and George Edalji, who you all should. As George becomes the victim of a ruthless smear campaign (and worse) while he struggles to make it as an Edinburgh solicitor (also publishing an excellent little book on railway law for the educated man on the train), Arthur marries his wife, invents Sherlock Holmes, and embarks on an affair. Barnes is adept, and I was drawn in almost instataneously: both characters come alive, but especially George. I think mostly because so many bad things happen to him, really allowing us to see his character from every possible angle. Arthur's not quite so fully fleshed out, but despite the title it's really George's novel, so that's okay.

I like well-written, literary novels, and I like well-plotted, gripping novels. But (if I'm going to make a wide and probably inaccurate generalization) it's rare that a novel has both characteristics. Arthur & George knocks it out of the park on both pitches. As I said, both leads are strongly characterized, and Barnes is simply marvelous to read as a writer; his prose is very strong and very insightful. But at the same time, I was very nearly always on the edge of my seat, wanting to know what happened next, especially during the trial sequences. It's a detective novel in some ways, but it's a detective novel that has something to say about how we look for truth and how we hold up in the face of it. Absolutely fantastic, I was hooked all the way through, and I can't recommend it enough. The best book I've read in ages.
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LibraryThing member vegetrendian
My first introduction to Julian Barnes was the vastly different, yet also compelling, “The History of the World in 10½ Chapters”. Though I quite enjoyed it (gave it four stars on this site), I never quite got around to reading anything else in his respectably large body of works. But this summer while holidaying in Europe (a turn of phrase intended to trick you into believing that I this is something I do often) I had the opportunity to find an autographed copy of Arthur & George and combined it in a 3/20₤ (or something along those lines) at Hatchard’s, London’s oldest bookstore (for the curious I matched it with Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – also signed- and Ali Smith’s The Accidental). I am a sucker for autographed books, and also for the Booker prize (the astute among you may have noticed that all three of those books were shortlisted –though none won- in recent years) and so the universe was clearly aligning to push me back towards Julian Barnes (also the British trade paperback is a beautiful specimen, a wonderful, understated design). I should also add that I did have some mild trepidation with the book. I am a fan of current, modern fiction, and that fandom also entails books set in the contemporary world, I am not a fan of the period piece, or (generally) historical novels (which may explain the dearth of classics in my library –in both electronic and paper forms). I knew that it was set at the turn of the 20th century, and that it was based on real events, and that the Arthur found in the title referred to the author of the Sherlock Holmes books, none of which I had, at the time, read. So I was hesitant. But the reviews were so overwhelmingly positive, I had enjoyed History of the World, and my faith in the Booker is so strong (particularly the shortlist, I have a woefully poor track record in both predicting and agreeing with the Booker judges on their ultimate selections in recent years). That all these elements together were enough for me to crack its spine (though I am anal enough that this is merely figurative, I do my best to keep the spines in pristine shape). And from the very minute that I, carefully, opened it, I was hooked. The writing is sparse and neat, and clean. It is extremely smooth, and he does an incredible job of letting the story tell itself. Normally it is the writing much less than the plot itself that endears me to a book, and this book was only slightly different in that it was the specific, spare, and fluid language that gave the story such wonderful room to grow. It is an interesting story, and Barnes does a spectacular job of endearing us to the characters while still providing us a realistic picture of two historical figures that includes their shortcomings and eccentricities (of which both have many). I have no hesitation recommending this book to almost anyone, for though it has a specific time and place it is a universal story, and the writing is so good that it is not merely a story about a fight for justice, or a portrait of a famous writer (though it does an excellent job of both of those, keeping in mind that this is not simply a Conan Doyle biography). This is an excellent book and (taking nothing away from John Banville) was certainly Booker worthy. I am having a hard time coming up with more ways to say it (my fault not the book, or author’s) but it is excellent, I can only hope that the rest of Barnes’ work is half as good, as I will definitely be going back to visit some of his older books in search of even a hint of this same brilliance.… (more)
LibraryThing member karl.steel
Since I find all spiritualism either risible or of only historical interest, Barnes' attention to Doyle's spiritualist fervor transformed my affectionate interest for Doyle into disgust and impatience. But while watching yet another 'Christmas Carol' this holiday--since this is what one does with the in-laws--I realized the weirdness of early twentieth century English spiritualism loosened the syrupy anglophilic nostalgia of the holiday. It wasn't all carols and parlor games, unless you want to work seances and hymns into your Dyker Heights lawn display.

George I had less trouble with: Thanks Barnes for George Edalji, and the generosity and decency of working through race and colonialism and splittings of colonized subjects. The sexlessness of George and his family, however, struck me as a bit Mr. Miyagi-y.
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LibraryThing member TheAmpersand
The Arthur and George referred to in the title are Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and George Eldaji, a lawyer who was falsely imprisoned for mutilating cattle and sending threatening letters whose erroneous conviction spurred the establishment of a court of appeals. Barnes sets up two parallel plotlines here. In the first, Arthur stages a public campaign to have the innocent George pardoned and compensated; in the second, he falls in love with his second wife, Jean, while his first wife, Louise, is dying from consumption. This difficult situation forces Arthur and Jean to conduct a secret, chaste romance that lasts over a decade. This twin structure turns out to be a terrific idea. It allows Barnes to depict the inflexibility of Victorian sexual mores without losing those readers who consider novels that focus solely on love affairs narrow and boring. In this book, Arthur is forced to inhabit the role of public intellectual and covert lover simultaneously, and we, therefore, end up with a remarkably complete portrait of him. Conan Doyle is known to most contemporary readers only as the creator of a certain detective, but Barnes makes the case that he led a fairly interesting life outside of Holmes and Watson. He was, in addition to being a world-famous writer, a sportsman, doctor, war veteran and public campaigner. One marvels at how he found the time for it all.

Barnes has chosen an interesting bit of history to resurrect here, and while my copy of "Arthur and George" did not contain a bibliography, but it's obvious that he did a great deal of research as he wrote this novel. His descriptions of period domestic and professional life are minutely detailed and ring true throughout. To his credit, he also resists the temptation to view the past through the eyes of the present. He doesn't even employ a modern narrator as an intermediary, as John Fowles did in his own exercise in careful historical reconstruction, "The French Lieutenant's Woman." Barnes's characters are, for better or for worse, very much inhabitants of the Victorian age, and the author makes no apologies for their interests and attitudes. We get an unedited look at Conan Doyle's infatuation with spiritualism, his concern for public order, his typically Victorian industriousness. George, on the other hand, lives a quiet, contained life defined by his family obligations. Like in many novels of the Victorian era, the most affecting moments of "Arthur and George" occur when their preternaturally reserved characters strain against the social framework that defines their lives.

Sometimes, though, this isn't quite enough. While I realize that "Arthur and George" is a successful book, there's something about it that keeps me from loving it. It might be Barnes's language, which is more formal and straitlaced than the diction he employed in, for example, "Talking it Over." This shift in tone might accurately reflect his character's own mindsets, but it also made it hard for me to feel genuine affection for either title character. George, in particular, is so drearily conventional that it's hard to say we know him at all, even after reading five hundred pages about him. "Arthur and George" is a fine, well-written example of faux-Victoriana, a novel I can admire I can recommend even if I can't quite bring bring myself to enthuse about it.
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LibraryThing member Dorritt
I enjoyed this book on a variety of levels: as a historic recreation of an obscure but interesting historical incident; as a biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the legendary author/creator of Sherlock Holmes; but also a thoughtful exploration of an enduring literary mystery: how Doyle, a man so dedicated to logic and scientific reasoning, could, in later years, have become infatuated with so infamous a pseudo-science as spiritualism.

As a historic novel/recreation, this is a worthy and highly readable effort. Barnes evokes, with seeming effortlessness, a sure and convincing sense of period: not just the "props" - the clothes , the manners - but the ways in which Victorians viewed the world, their role in the world, and themselves. Barnes is especially strong when recounting the role that circumstance, prejudice, ignorance and pride play in ensnaring Eydalji. These chapters - full of mounting suspense and menace - are among the best in the book and made me miss more than one meal. Moreover, Barnes uses the vehicle of the murder mystery as a chance to explore larger themes such as prejudice (conscious and unconscious), human resiliency, and the evolution of the English justice system

The story also works as an incomplete but intriguing bio of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, exploring the role that his absentee artist father, his Scottish mother, and his "traditional" British upbringing shaped him into the man that he became, a simultaneous embodiment of the past (ex: his chivalric but rather clueless attitude towards women), the present (ex: he was an avid sportsman, numbered among his acquaintances most of the notable men of the period, and even dabbled in politics), and the future (ex: his Sherlock Holmes stories famously foreshadowed the use of forensic evidence to solve crimes). But make no mistake: this is no homage. Barnes' Doyle may be clever, accomplished, and driven by a sense of honor, but he is also crippled by intellectual vanity.

However, I believe Barnes' primary goal (and greatest achievement) is his exploration of how a man as rational as Doyle - not just the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but a trained medical doctor - can have developed so deep and (seemingly) irrational a fascination with spiritualism. How could the man who gave birth to Sherlock Holmes have believed in ectoplasm, telepathy, mesmerism, ouija boards, spirit writing, and (perhaps most famously) fairies? Barnes' depicts Doyle as a man so tormented by rational doubts about organized religion, he finds himself seduced by spiritualism and its promise of providing scientifically verifiable evidence of an afterlife. Alas, however, Doyle's intellectual vanity prevents him not only from identifying the real culprit behind the crimes of which Eydalji is accused, but also prevents him from being able to rationally debunk the spiritualists who successfully manipulate him into believing what he wishes to believe.

Which eventually leads the reader back to the major theme of this story: that people will find a way to believe what they want to believe, no matter how irrational the conclusion. The way a normally "just" justice system came to believe Eydalji guilty of murder. The way Doyle convinces himself that he can love two women without compromising his honor. The way humans continue to believe that the spirits of their beloved dead still walk among us, just waiting for us to find a way to communicate with them.
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LibraryThing member lizchris
This is a tale of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji, a rather dull Midlands solicitor who goes to prison because of a miscarriage of justice. Arthur uses his celebrity to push for a review of the case, George gets a pardon, but no compensation.

The story builds up the 2 contrasting characters subtly and eloquently; the author seems more interested in George.
Arthur comes across as a man of action and impulse, but perhaps lacking self-knowledge. George is quiet and introspective, but the strongest character in the book.

My only criticism is that the book also tries to cover Conan Doyle's spritualism, I found the final section about the mass seance in the Albert Hall after Conan Doyle's death far less interesting than the rest of the book.
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LibraryThing member lyzadanger
A random pick from my shelf dropped me in the English West Midlands at the turn of the 19th century. A mystery based on real events set during the senescence of Victorian ideals, starring the real human Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "Arthur & George" combines literary suspense with the themes of slowly declining empire. It explores what it means to be English at a time when what it means to be English is changing faster than it has ever done so before; it glances at the accelerating evolution of change in the time of full-steam-ahead Edwardian idealism. No longer is it exactly all right for a gentleman to express bald racism, instead a more insidious cousin allows for unfounded parlor and cigar chats, couched in pseudo-science, about the biological reason for Parsi 'blood lust.'

This is important, because George, our much-suffering protagonist, is the son of a Parsi vicar and his Scottish wife. Successful, but unremarkable and socially stunted Birmingham lawyer George Edalji is accused of bizarre and gruesome crimes against livestock in what seems, at best, a farcical miscarriage of police investigation. Outrage upon outrage ensues. Injustice reigns. The identity of the true perpetrator remains elusive and provides a mysterious background tension.

Doyle steps in and intertwines his own slightly-fictionalized biography with Edalji's. The novel shifts gears from a frenetic charge of clues and evidence to one more introspective. We learn of Doyle's complexes and conflicts. It is here that Barnes loses a bit of steam. While the reader champs at the bit to learn more about George and what really happened to George, we are instead derailed (to use a pervasive railroad symbolism in the book) into a yearning, self-exploratory quietness.

This, while arguably more literary, is a disappointment. Tensions are ultimately resolved and it feels like the question that was, overall, asked, is left as an exercise for the reader.
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LibraryThing member _________jt_________
Nicely executed, but there's something missing here; seems like this author has a hell of a style, but not much to say.
LibraryThing member verbafacio
A fascinating look at a real-life historical mystery from two perspectives. Arthur Conan Doyle takes an intense interest in the fate of a young Indian-English man, George Edalji, who has been falsely accused of mutilating livestock. His devotion to the case is tied to Doyle's love for his not-quite-mistress Jean and his beliefs in the spiritual realm. Edalji is a unique, strange character who is unable to fully interface with the world. The story alternates between Doyle's and Edalji's voices, and the interplay of the two very different personalities makes for a great read.… (more)
LibraryThing member LynnB
This is a novel based on a real event: the work by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to clear the name of George Edalji, wrongfully convicted of a crime.

After having read the reviews already posted on this site, I find myself very much in the minority: I didn't like this book very much. My views can actually be well summed up by the "Grand Old Duke of York" nursery rhyme: When he was up, he was up. And when he was down, he was down. And when he was only half way up, he was neither up nor down.

The author tries to remain very true to the actual events, and in so doing so, has created a book that at times is very fictionalized (conversations and dialogue) and at times reads much more like nonfiction. This made the book feel very slow-moving at times, and resulted in several lengthy discussions that had little, if anything, to do with the story. The more fictionalized accounts were wonderful, and actually had me laughing out loud because of their witty humour. Perhaps because they were so good, the more true-to-fact sections dragged on.

And the ending....it just didn't work for me. As I was reading the last section, I noted several passages that would have made a perfect ending, but the book just kept going.

I have a feeling this author could write fiction or non-fiction quite well, but he just couldn't combine them...at least this time.
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LibraryThing member Yasmin
I'm not predisposed to liking historical novels of any description, so despite a liking for Barnes' work I wasn't especially looking forward to reading Arthur and George. It's based upon a true story from the early 20thC about a parson's son, George, who is accused of crimes he did not commit. The miscarriage of justice elicits the support of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, amongst other high profile campaigners.

The novel touches upon themes which could have been worthy but unengaging in other hands. George is not an immediately sympathetic character, whilst Barnes' fictional Conan Doyle is less Sherlock Holmes than a capricious force of personality, blasting his way through the investigation like a hunting rifle in the hands of a Vice President. Racial injustice is at the heart of the matter, as George's father, the Midlands vicar, was born a Parsee in India, and his son's misfortunes are the result of a sustained campaign against the family for their difference.

It's hard not to be swept along with Arthur's exuberance, and the novel is often very funny, but I particularly liked the characterisation of George. Some reviewers have commented on George's Pooterishness, his pride in his modest achievements as a Birmingham solicitor who has also published a pamphlet on railway law for the litigious commuter, but I see him not as a Pooter, but as an intelligent man who has been shaped by his family's experiences into someone so repressed, so incapable of expecting human warmth from others, that he settles for much sadder satisfactions than most of us want from life and love.

Do not be put off by the fusty book cover, or the central theme; this is a rollicking good read, a real page turner. It is funny, touching and surprisingly light.
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LibraryThing member stephenmurphy
This is real contem[porary literature. Flawlessly restrained style and a sure hand on the reins. Beware of pale imitations.
LibraryThing member oddvark59
Excellent novel featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a consulting detective attempting to exonerate an innocent man.
LibraryThing member writestuff
Julian Barnes has crafted an imaginative, compellingly readable 'whodunnit' that keeps the reader compulsively turning the pages.

Based on the life and work of Sir Arthur Conan Boyle, it is a tale of two men - George and Arthur - who seem to be living worlds apart, but whose paths cross when a mystery surfaces. The novel explores larger themes of racism and morality, but is driven by excellent story telling and Barnes' gift of creating character.

I read this for a book club read and also because it was listed as a 2006 New York Times Notable. I am happy I picked it up. If you enjoy evocative novels which spin a good yarn, you will love this book.

Recommended.
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LibraryThing member karieh
Some very interesting facts about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - along with a very compelling story about a total unknown whose life he had a dramatic effect on.
LibraryThing member Aurora9002
Excellent book. Surprising story which does not really come to light until 100 pages in. Beautiful writing, but a little too long overall.
LibraryThing member Doondeck
A wonderful read. So English. A great blend of two interesting stories
LibraryThing member harveywals
Beautifully written, compelling and thought provoking. Felt slow in parts.

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