Arthur and George

Arthur and George

by Julian Barnes


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As boys, George, the son of a Midlands vicar, and Arthur, living in shabby genteel Edinburgh, find themselves in a vast and complex world at the heart of the British Empire. Years later—one struggling with his identity in a world hostile to his ancestry, the other creating the world’s most famous detective while in love with a woman who is not his wife–their fates become inextricably connected.In Arthur & George, Julian Barnes explores the grand tapestry of late-Victorian Britain to create his most intriguing and engrossing novel yet.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400097036
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/09/2007
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 182,844
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Julian Barnes is the author of two books of stories, two collections of essays, a translation of Alphonse Daudet's In the Land of Pain, and nine previous novels. In France he is the only writer to have won both the Prix Médicis and the Prix Fémina, and in 2004 he became a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In England his honors include the Somerset Maugham Award and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. He has also received the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He lives in London.


London, England

Date of Birth:

January 19, 1946

Place of Birth:

Leicester, England


Degree in modern languages from Magdalen College, Oxford, 1968

Read an Excerpt




A child wants to see. It always begins like this, and it began like this then. A child wanted to see.

He was able to walk, and could reach up to a door handle. He did this with nothing that could be called a purpose, merely the instinctive tourism of infancy. A door was there to be pushed; he walked in, stopped, looked. There was nobody to observe him; he turned and walked away, carefully shutting the door behind him.

What he saw there became his first memory. A small boy, a room, a bed, closed curtains leaking afternoon light. By the time he came to describe it publicly, sixty years had passed. How many internal retellings had smoothed and adjusted the plain words he finally used? Doubtless it still seemed as clear as on the day itself. The door, the room, the light, the bed, and what was on the bed: a ‘white, waxen thing’.

A small boy and a corpse: such encounters would not have been so rare in the Edinburgh of his time. High mortality rates and cramped circumstances made for early learning. The household was Catholic, and the body that of Arthur’s grandmother, one Katherine Pack. Perhaps the door had been deliberately left ajar. There might have been a desire to impress upon the child the horror of death; or, more optimistically, to show him that death was nothing to be feared. Grandmother’s soul had clearly flown up to Heaven, leaving behind only the sloughed husk of her body. The boy wants to see? Then let the boy see.

An encounter in a curtained room. A small boy and a corpse. A grandchild who, by the acquisition of memory, had just stopped being a thing, and a grandmother who, by losing those attributes the child was developing, had returned to that state. The small boy stared; and over half a century later the adult man was still staring. Quite what a ‘thing’ amounted to — or, to put it more exactly, quite what happened when the tremendous change took place, leaving only a ‘thing’ behind — was to become of central importance to Arthur.


George does not have a first memory, and by the time anyone suggests that it might be normal to have one, it is too late. He has no recollection obviously preceding all others — not of being picked up, cuddled, laughed at or chastised. He has an awareness of once having been an only child, and a knowledge that there is now Horace as well, but no primal sense of being disturbingly presented with a brother, no expulsion from paradise. Neither a first sight, nor a first smell: whether of a scented mother or a carbolicy maid-of-all-work.

He is a shy, earnest boy, acute at sensing the expectations of others. At times he feels he is letting his parents down: a dutiful child should remember being cared for from the first. Yet his parents never rebuke him for this inadequacy. And while other children might make good the lack — might forcibly install a mother’s doting face or a father’s supporting arm in their memories — George does not do so. For a start, he lacks imagination. Whether he has never had one, or whether its growth has been stunted by some parental act, is a question for a branch of psychological science which has not yet been devised. George is fully capable of following the inventions of others — the stories of Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, the Journey of the Magi — but has little such capacity himself.

He does not feel guilty about this, since his parents do not regard it as a fault in him. When they say that a child in the village has ‘too much imagination’, it is clearly a term of dispraise. Further up the scale are ‘tellers of tall stories’ and ‘fibbers’; by far the worst is the child who is ‘a liar through and through’ — such are to be avoided at all costs. George himself is never urged to speak the truth: this would imply that he needs encouragement. It is simpler than this: he is expected to tell the truth because at the Vicarage no alternative exists.

‘I am the way, the truth and the life’: he is to hear this many times on his father’s lips. The way, the truth and the life. You go on your way through life telling the truth. George knows that this is not exactly what the Bible means, but as he grows up this is how the words sound to him.


For Arthur there was a normal distance between home and church; but each place was filled with presences, with stories and instructions. In the cold stone church where he went once a week to kneel and pray, there was God and Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles and the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins. Everything was very orderly, always listed and numbered, like the hymns and the prayers and the verses of the Bible.

He understood that what he learned there was the truth; but his imagination preferred the different, parallel version he was taught at home. His mother’s stories were also about far distant times, and also designed to teach him the distinction between right and wrong. She would stand at the kitchen range, stirring the porridge, tucking her hair back behind her ears as she did so; and he would wait for the moment when she would tap the stick against the pan, pause, and turn her round, smiling face towards him. Then her grey eyes would hold him, while her voice made a moving curve in the air, swooping up and down, then slowing almost to a halt as she reached the part of the tale he could scarcely endure, the part where exquisite torment or joy awaited not just hero and heroine, but the listener as well.

‘And then the knight was held over the pit of writhing snakes, which hissed and spat as their twining lengths ensnared the whitening bones of their previous victims . . .’

‘And then the black-hearted villain, with a hideous oath, drew a secret dagger from his boot and advanced towards the defenceless . . .’

‘And then the maiden took a pin from her hair and the golden tresses fell from the window, down, down, caressing the castle walls until they almost reached the verdant grass on which he stood . . .’

Arthur was an energetic, headstrong boy who did not easily sit still; but once the Mam raised her porridge stick he was held in a state of silent enchantment — as if a villain from one of her stories had slipped a secret herb into his food. Knights and their ladies then moved about the tiny kitchen; challenges were issued, quests miraculously fulfilled; armour clanked, chain mail rustled, and honour was always upheld.

Reading Group Guide

The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about Arthur & George, Julian Barnes’s moving account of the intersection of the lives of Arthur Conan Doyle, world-famous writer of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and George Edalji, a Birmingham solicitor imprisoned for dreadfully gruesome crimes.

1. One of the first things we learn about George is that “for a start, he lacks imagination” [p. 4]. George is deeply attached to the facts, while Arthur discovers early in life the “essential connection between narrative and reward” [p. 14]. How does this temperamental difference determine their approaches to life? Does Barnes use Arthur and George to explore the very different attractions of truth telling and storytelling?

2. What qualities does the Mam encourage in Arthur? How does Arthur’s upbringing compare with George’s? What qualities are encouraged in George by his parents? What does the novel imply about one’s parents as a determinant in character development?

3. To what degree do George’s parents try to overlook or deny the social difficulties their mixed marriage has produced for themselves and their children? Are they admirable in their determination to ignore the racial prejudice to which they are subjected?

4. Critic Peter Kemp has commented on Julian Barnes’s interest in fiction that “openly colonises actuality—especially the lives of creative prodigies” [The Sunday Times (London), June 26, 2005]. In Arthur & George, the details we read about Arthur’s life are largely true. While the story of George Edalji is an obscure chapter of Doyle’s life, its details as presented here are also based on the historical record. What is the effect, for the reader, when an author blurs the line between fiction and biography or fiction and history?

5. From early on in a life shaped by stories, Arthur has identified with tales of knights: “If life was a chivalric quest, then he had rescued the fair Touie, he had conquered the city, and been rewarded with gold. . . . What did a knight errant do when he came home to a wife and two children in South Norwood?” [p. 69]. Is it common to find characters like Arthur in our own day? How have the ideas of masculinity changed between Edwardian times and the present?

6. George has trouble believing that he was a victim of racial prejudice [p. 264]. Why is this difficult for him to believe? Is it difficult for him to imagine that others don’t see him as he sees himself? Does George’s misfortune seem to be juxtaposed ironically with his family’s firm belief in the Christian faith?

7. The small section on pages 91–92, called “George & Arthur,” describes an unnamed man approaching a horse in a field on a cold night. What is the effect of this section, coming into the novel when it does, and named as it is?

8. Inspector Campbell tells Captain Anson that the man who did the mutilations would be someone who was “accustomed to handling animals” [p. 97]; this assumption would clearly rule out George. Yet George is pursued as the single suspect. Campbell also notes that Sergeant Upton is neither intelligent nor competent at his job [p. 99]. What motivates Campbell as he examines George’s clothing and his knife, and proceeds to have George arrested
[pp. 117–123]?

9. George’s lawyer, Mr. Meek, is amused at George’s sense of outrage when he reads the factual errors and outright lies in the newspapers’ reports of his case [p. 137; 140–141]. Why is Mr. Meek not more sympathetic?

10. George’s arrest for committing “the Great Wyrley Outrages” [p. 176] causes a stir in England just a few years following the sensational killing spree of Jack the Ripper, which sold millions of newspapers. Are the newspapers, and the public appetite for sensational stories, partly responsible for the crime against George Edalji?

11. How does Barnes convey the feeling of the historical period of which he writes? What details and stylistic effects are noticeable?

12. England was extremely proud of its legal system; Queen Victoria had expressed outrage over the injustice in the dubious case against Alfred Dreyfus, which had occurred a few years earlier in France. Yet the Edalji case seems to present an even greater injustice, and again because of the ethnicity of the accused. Why might the Home Office have refused to pay damages to Edalji?

13. For nine years, Arthur carries on a chaste love affair with Jean Leckie. Yet he feels miserable after the death of his wife, Touie, particularly when he learns from his daughter Mary that Touie assumed Arthur would remarry [pp. 247–49]. Why is Arthur thrown into “the great Grimpen Mire” by his freedom to marry Jean [p. 253]? Why does he believe that “if Touie knew, then he was destroyed” [p. 305]? Has he, as he fears, behaved dishonorably to both women? What does the dilemma do to his sense of personal honor?

14. Why is the real perpetrator of the animal killings never identified? In a Sherlock Holmes story the criminal is always caught and convicted, but Doyle gets no such satisfaction with this real-world case. How disturbing is the fact that George is never truly vindicated and never compensated for the injustice he suffered? Does Barnes’s fictional enlargement of George Edalji’s life act as a kind of compensation?

15. Arthur & George presents a world that seems less evolved than our own in its assumptions about race and human nature, justice and evidence, and its examples of human innocence and idealism. Does this world seem so remote in time as to be, in a sense, unbelievable? Or might American readers recognize a similar situation in a story like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, or more recent news stories about racial injustice?

16. The story ends with George’s attendance at the memorial service for Arthur. What is most moving about this episode?

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Arthur and George 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1903, solicitor George Edalji is arrested and convicted of mutilating cattle and other farm animals as well as writing threatening letters. He is sent to prison and disbarred from practicing law.----- In 1906 Arthur Conan Doyle still grieves the loss of his beloved life when he learns of the case that some claim is the result of racism. He does a perfunctory review and quickly learns that police and others have harassed the Edalji family before the arrest and apparently continue to do so. He digs deeper as the investigation helps him out of his morbid funk until he concludes that the extremely near-sighted George, who can barely see and was obviously a logical rational person, could not have committed these atrocious acts. Doyle begins a campaign to free George and get him reinstated as a lawyer.------ This is a terrific fictionalized account of a real event as Doyle actually undertook a campaign to free the imprisoned Edalji. The investigation grips the audience who will receive a taste of Edwardian England¿s darker societal practices as much as insight into the two lead characters. Readers will understand how the intelligent George became a victim and how Arthur turned to spiritualism when logic especially that of his society failed him. The details make this a fabulous historical fiction that will shock the audience with its equivalency to the Emile Zola-Dreyfus Affair.----- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would have to say the story is both engaging and inspiring. I picked this book up in London two months ago. It has taken me some time to read it due to other obligations. It has kept me up for the past two evenings. Believe me, if it keeps me up to read, then it holds my interest. Do not miss this excellent piece of literature.
_________jt_________ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nicely executed, but there's something missing here; seems like this author has a hell of a style, but not much to say.
kerryhullett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed it but agreed that it was a little too long. The most surprising part of the book, which I'm assuming was based on evidence, was that George in no attributed his poor treatment to racisim. And yet in every other way he seemed to be quite cynical about human nature. I'm not sure I agree that the spiritualism scene was gratuitous, after all if this is a book about Conan Doyle this was an essential part of this make up and reflected his inherent optimisim.
mbergman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very interesting novel, apparently based on an actual event. It's set in early 20th-century England, with alternating sections tracing the lives of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & George Edalji, the son of an Anglican vicar who's a Parsee immigrant, from childhood until their lives intersect as Doyle takes on the cause of overturning Edalji's conviction for mutilating cattle. Both characters are, in very different ways, preoccupied with order & honor, making for a most interesting book.
SofiaAndersson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A novel based on the true story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji, a Midlands solicitor who becomes a victim of a miscarriage of justice. Well-researched and carefully written, but maybe a bit flat and lifeless.
NRPL-TAB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Arthur & George, the tenth novel by Julian Barnes is a historical fiction that chronicles the lives of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji. The former was, of course, the one and only creator of the greatest literary detective in the world, and the latter being the subject of a legal case in the early twentieth century. The book is beautifully and meticulously written with exacting, remarkable detail and two distinct tones for the different characters. The pace can feel plodding at points, but never to an extreme degree. Added enjoyment can be had for those who are familiar with the case and the people portrayed in the storyline. The characters are written in a way that it feels more like a living autobiography than the musings of an author what with the apparent realism infused into the work. In all honesty, a fictional chronicling of a legal case from the 1900s won¿t appeal to everyone despite the names involved, one in particular. However, it¿s engaging, smartly written, and surprisingly difficult to put down once a few chapters in. 4 stars ****
TheAmpersand on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Aurora9002 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. Surprising story which does not really come to light until 100 pages in. Beautiful writing, but a little too long overall.
Kushana on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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
alic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An odd sort of book, setting up its two main characters and spending half the book letting the reader wonder what in the world these two might have in common. It was so throughly researched that it read like non-fiction. Both characters were trapped by the codes that they lived by - George by a miscarriage of justice, and Arthur by the code of chivalry that prevented him from forsaking his dying wife. But Arthur's quest to defend George proved him worthy to be Jean's husband. Maybe.
jtho on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I first opened, this book, I was a bit afraid - it starts out with one chapter that's a page long about Arthur, then one about George, etc. I tend to get characters confused until I'm well into the story, and page-long chapters back and forth seemed like a setup for failure for me. However, I was pleasantly surprised - Arthur and George were both so different in personalities, family situations, successes, and fears, that they were easy for me to keep straight - but then such differences had me caught up in the story right away, wondering how their lives could possibly intertwine.I don't want to give away any spoilers, as one of the characters turns out to be someone well-known to probably anyone that speaks the English language, and I enjoyed having that secret revealed to me later on. Even after finding out the identity of that character, it still wasn't apparent how the two characters would meet later on; this novel focuses on a lesser-known event in the famous character's life.I loved this novel. Both the main characters were so real, and getting to know them since childhood (in the early chapters) revealed so much about their later actions. This is a work of historical fiction that was incredibly well-researched. Plus, the research was done so well that it blended in with the story, and made all of the events seem more real. I've read historical fiction before and finished it thinking, "Now I am going to look that up and see what *really* happened." I didn't have that sense while reading Arthur & George - it was almost like reading two sets of memoirs.
amandrake on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good for what it was, but not really my thing. A bit too straightforward and normal for me, I think. However, I suspect a lot of people will enjoy it.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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!
verbafacio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
harveywals on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written, compelling and thought provoking. Felt slow in parts.
Yasmin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
witchyrichy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It started slow (that's where the 1/2 went) and I found myself looking it up online. When I learned the story, I wasn't sure I wanted to keep reading. There was just something stilted about it, I guess, and almost unbelievable in the way George was treated. The story, however, built, and I was so charmed by Arthur Conan Doyle's almost puppy dog approach to life.
tobiejonzarelli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
NancyStebbins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Much of the book alternates between Mr. Edalji and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I found it leisurely paced and focused on the psychology of the two men. I especially enjoyed the sections which dealt with George Edalji. He was such a consistent and individual character. It was interesting to see how his personality was shaped by his experiences. His self-concept was nicely contrasted with the perceptions others had about him. (Experiencing him "from the inside," the reader has a much different view of what he is and isn't capable of doing than the constabulary.) Conan Doyle's sections were interesting (I didn't know much about him), but didn't (to me) clearly build towards his adoption of the case. But then, maybe that was the point--the their intersection was a much more important event in Edalji's life than in Conan Doyles.
mccin68 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
traces sir arthur conan doyle through his beginnings as an optometrist to world renowed writer, his marriage, his affair. In a Sherlock Holmes manner, Arthur investigates the case of George Edjai a social mistfit, accused of a twisted crime. The story was engaging for the first 2/3's and, in my opinion should have ended with the final judgement in George's case.
CasualFriday on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The blurb on the back of my copy calls this ¿a cracking good yarn,¿ and indeed it is. Shortlisted for the Booker, this novel is about George Edalji, a country lawyer accused of a series of terrible crimes. Justice is in short supply in the rural England of the early 1900s, but George gains an influential friend when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle takes up his case. The plot is intriguing ¿ and it¿s based on a true story ¿ but it¿s the two protagonists that carry the day. Each is finely drawn, and deeply sympathetic despite their many human flaws.
hobbitprincess on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had not heard of the George Edalji case, but I certainly have now. This book is a fictionalized novel about his wrongful imprisonment and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's help in getting him exonerated. I learned a lot about Doyle too, which was interesting since I didn't know much about him. I thoroughly enjoyed this book about the lives of these two men, how they came to be involved with each other, and how the situation was resolved in the end.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
themulhern on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is exceptionally well written. A number of individual sentences struck me quite powerfully. The elliptical way in which certain facts are revealed and then discarded by the narrative is probably meant to evoke the way actual lives are conducted. The book draws an interesting contrast between the life of Sherlock Holmes and the more complicated life of his author. The contrast between the many victims whom Holmes rescues from unjust accusations and the real solicitor assisted by Arthur Conan Doyle is also well drawn. A subtle and involving book.