The late 1890s saw Arthur Conan Doyle return to England after several years abroad. His new house, named Undershaw, represented a fresh start but it was also the beginning of a dramatic decade that saw him fall in love, stand for parliament, fight injustice and be awarded a knighthood. However, for his many admirers, the most important event of that decade was the resurrection of Sherlock Holmes - the character that he felt had cast a shadow over his life.
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About the Author
Alistair Duncan knows his Arthur Conan Doyle stuff. This excellent observation of the -Undershaw- period of Conan Doyle s life follows his previous fine appraisal of the -Norwood- period. Duncan covers the gamut of Conan Doyle s public and private life and comments fairly on what he sees as the noble and flawed aspects of his character. --Bill Barnes, The Sydney Passengers
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An Entirely New Country - Arthur Conan Doyle, Undershaw and the Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
A welcome addition to the ever growing literature concerning Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.This particular volume concerns Doyle's years spent living at the house known as Undershaw. It seems very detailed and much new information is given to the interested reader. I could have done with a little less of the maybes and the perhaps occuring quite so often in the text. Much mention is made of the diary of Conan Doyle,but there is no tie-in or mention in the brief bibliography. It would be interesting to discover if this elusive diary is available and if so where can one gain a sight of it. While there a capacious footnotes for newspapers and books throughout this book,there is nothing to indicate the whereabouts this most important piece of literary history. For me the most fascinating few pages were those in the final chapter,which showed a series of photographs of the property taken in 2007. The house is in a poor state of repair and plans are afoot to save the house from vandals and the ravages of time. There is in fact a campaign afoot to preserve it,which I fervently hope will succeed.
An Entirely New Country Type of material: Trade Paperback Publisher: MX Publishing, London Year: 2012 Author: Alistair Duncan This book covers the 10 years (1897-1907) that Arthur Conan Doyle lived at Undershaw, the stately home he built at Hindhead in Surrey, and where he lived with his first wife Louis “Touie” Hawkins Doyle and their two children, Mary and Kingsley. This is Duncan’s sequel to The Norwood Author, a 2011 Howlett Literary Award winning book that covers Doyle’s life from 1891-94. The important years covered by this book include the launching of actor William Gillette as the world’s embodiment of Holmes due to his smash hit play “Sherlock Holmes.” The play was written by Gillette, but began as a play written by Doyle himself. These years also saw the writing of arguably the greatest Gothic mystery of all time – The Hound of the Baskervilles – and ultimately the resurrection of The Great Detective himself with the publishing of what would eventually become the collection of short stories known as “The Return of Sherlock Holmes.” One gathers that, despite Doyle’s proclaimed dislike of his famous hero, even he was not content to let sleeping detectives lie. These pivotal subjects are handled fairly well, as is Doyle’s extensive involvement in the Boer War. Other important topics, however, I felt were rather glossed over. For example, it was during this time Doyle campaigned to clear parcee solicitor George Edalji of a charge of maliciously wounding a pony; but the broader issues of racism that surrounded this volatile subject were rather downplayed, leaving Doyle’s zeal somewhat without a platform. We learn that during this period Doyle’s wife Louise finally succumbs to her longstanding fight with tuberculosis, but apart from that, we learn very little about their home life together or about her as a person. And, other than learning that Doyle carried on a not-very-private courtship of his second wife Jean Leckie, all the while Louise was still alive, we learn few details about her, either. I was quite interested to learn that during this time Doyle toured the scene of the Jack the Ripper crimes yet, apart from one sentence mentioning that, I learn nothing more about it here. Each chapter of this book represents one of the 10 years covered and events are recorded chronologically. Duncan makes meticulous use of newspaper clippings, Doyle’s diary entries and personal memorabilia provided by the family and there is an ample supply of photographs. Occasionally the author indulges in speculation if the information available to him is ambiguous or if there is an obvious gap in the record; otherwise, the author’s journalistic, “just-the-facts” approach to his subject is somewhat dry. I suppose Sherlock Holmes would applaud Duncan’s not putting too much color and life into his narrative but I think I should have preferred a more Watsonian approach! To his credit, his footnotes and bibliography are both excellent, so if one wanted to learn more about Doyle’s life with his first family than is provided here, one could perhaps pick up a copy of Out of the Shadows by Georgina Doyle, widow of John Doyle, the son of Arthur's brother Innes. Or, if one wished to learn more about the Edalji case, one could pick up a copy of Julian Barnes's 2005 novel Arthur & George, Gordon Weaver’s Conan Doyle and the Parson's Son: The George Edalji Case or Outrage: The Edalji Five and the Shadow of Sherlock Holmes by Roger Oldfield. For these reasons, I would categorize this more as a useful reference book, although rather limited as an actual biography. Its chronological layout makes it perfectly useful in that respect. It is worth noting that Duncan is a fervent supporter of the Undershaw Preservation Trust, an organization that is in the process of restoring Doyle’s home Undershaw to serve as a museum dedicated to Doyle and to Sherlock Holmes. It is a monumental undertaking, and Duncan has pledged a percentage of the royalties from this book to the project. Mark Gatiss - actor, screenwriter, novelist, co-producer with Steven Moffat of the smash hit BBC series "Sherlock" and Patron of Undershaw since December 2010 provides a worthy foreward to this book. Reviewed by: By Margaret Whitmer, February, 2013