The centerpiece of Julian Barnes’s Booker Prize-nominated novel is a real-life travesty of justice involving a wrongly imprisoned half-Indian solicitor named George Edalji and his defender, the celebrated writer Arthur Conan Doyle. In a style far less elliptical than his usual fare, Barnes reconstructs this incident through the reimagined lives of these two "unofficial Englishmen,", whose stories unfold in alternating chapters throughout the book. Yet even this “straightforward” historical novel contains plenty of the Barnesian twists we have all come to appreciate from the author of such postmodern masterpieces as Flaubert's Parrot and A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters.
Julian Barnes has written a deeply English novel, in the grand manner, about the sorts of existential questions the English on the whole prefer to leave to the French. Arthur and George conceals its contemplation of the imponderables slyly, discreetly hiding it behind the curtains while scenes of Dickensian force and color play out in firelit rooms … Arthur and George is finally about how Englishmen protect themselves from the heaviest emotional weather, what hard, lifelong work it is just to keep out the chill and the fog.
The New York Times
Barnes's writing is, as usual, masterly throughout Arthur & George, not only as the pages shift from one man's consciousness to the other's but also in the way their author keeps the reader on edge. Facts are interpreted, then reinterpreted; the bigoted speak convincingly; nothing turns out quite as expected; and even the book's coda delivers a final shock.
The Washington Post
Arthur is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, physician, sportsman, gentleman par excellence and the inventor of Sherlock Holmes; George is George Edalji, also a real, if less well-known person, whose path crossed not quite fatefully with the famous author's. Edalji was the son of a Parsi father (who was a Shropshire vicar), and a Scots mother. In 1903, George, a solicitor, was accused of writing obscene, threatening letters to his own family and of mutilating cattle in his farm community. He was convicted of criminal behavior in a blatant miscarriage of justice based on racial prejudice. Eventually, Sir Arthur ("Irish by ancestry, Scottish by birth") heard about George's case and began to advocate on his behalf. In this combination psychological novel, detective story and literary thriller, Barnes elegantly dissects early 20th-century English society as he spins this true-life story with subtle and restrained irony. Every line delivered by the many characters-the two principals, their school chums (Barnes sketches their early lives), their families and many incidentals-rings with import. His dramatization of George's trial, in particular, grinds with telling minutiae, and his portrait of Arthur is remarkably rich, even when tackling Doyle's spiritualist side. Shortlisted for the Booker, this novel about love, guilt, identity and honor is a triumph of storytelling, taking the form Barnes perfected in Flaubert's Parrot (1985) and stretching it yet again. 100,000 first printing; 8-city author tour. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
As all Sherlockians know, in 1906 Arthur Conan Doyle took on the case of George Edalji, a reserved young lawyer, half Scottish and half Indian, who was wrongly accused of mutilating animals-and in the process helped set up Britain's Court of Appeals. Perhaps it is not so surprising that the author of Flaubert's Parrot would choose to reconstruct not just this case but the lives of both participants; what is surprising is the almost deadpan way he does it-and that his approach works so well. Barnes tells the life stories of Arthur and George with almost clinical precision, alternating between them from school age on. The storm gathers slowly; one learns the details of the mutilations and how the case was built so incongruously against the upright and deeply myopic George, even as Arthur is whiling away his time as famed writer and romancer of Miss Jean Leckie. The book picks up like a whirlwind when Arthur and George meet at last; and though a few early passages can seem a bit leisurely, it finally make powerful sense to see how these men arrived where they did. A beautifully modulated work; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/05.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-This novel tells the tale of two real men: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, and George Edalji, an English lawyer of Indian descent. Their lives crossed when Edalji asked Doyle for help following Edalji's unjust conviction for mutilating horses. The narrative moves toward that point, which is in many ways merely the framework that allows Barnes to develop the interior stories of two unusual figures in Victorian and Edwardian England. His Doyle is a latter-day knight-errant, with all the failings and foibles one might expect; Edalji is the model Englishman with an inherent faith in the legal system and race is something that he cannot imagine could matter. Barnes has created two fully realized characters, and readers cannot help but sympathize with them.-Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
British author Barnes's deeply satisfying tenth novel, based on a turn-of-the-century cause celebre. In 1906, Arthur Conan Doyle, the renowned creator of Sherlock Holmes, was roused to passionate indignation on behalf of a sedentary-and extremely near-sighted-lawyer named George Edalji, who was disbarred and imprisoned after being convicted of mutilating farm animals. Doyle's investigations-which lifted him out of the despondency occasioned by the death of his first wife-confirmed that the Edalji family had long been a target of police persecution. Doyle's widely read articles and petition to the Home Secretary offered new evidence of Edalji's innocence and suggested the identity of the actual criminal, resulting in the overturning of Edalji's conviction, his re-admission to the bar and the establishment of the Court of Criminal Appeal. As enthralling as Barnes's fictionalized account of these events is, with its satisfyingly morbid Victorian elements-the anonymous threats reprinted here verbatim, the dead birds strewn on the Edaljis' lawn, the vicar's odd practice of locking his son in his bedroom every night well into adulthood-detection is only one component of the novel. The author also respectfully narrates the parallel lives of two Victorian gentlemen: George Edalji, whose Apollonian downfall was to trust too much in the rationality of his fellow citizens; and Arthur Conan Doyle, who, when logic took him only so far, made the great Dionysian leap into spiritualism. Like his favorite writer, Flaubert, Barnes is a connoisseur of middle-class normalcy, which he chronicles with loving attention to the peculiarities of bourgeois life subsumed under its sheltering cloak of good order. Hispast novels have been praised for their brilliance but occasionally faulted for a dry style overburdened with detail. Here, with a mystery at the heart of the narrative, every detail is a potential, welcome clue. The precision of the style suits the decorum of the period and serves to underline the warm, impulsive generosity of Doyle's support, which saved an innocent man from ruin. A triumph. First printing of 100,000 copies
“Extraordinary.... First rate.... A cracking good yarn.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“An absorbing fictional re-creation of a real-life detective story. . . . A finely evocative historical novel as well as a morally and psychologically astute glimpse into the worlds of two men.”
–Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Masterly throughout. . . . The author keeps the reader on edge.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“Deeply satisfying. . . . From the first chapter, Barnes has us in his thrall.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“A page-turner.... Arthur & George is by far Mr. Barnes's most pressurized novel to date.” –The Wall Street Journal
“Utterly absorbing, beautifully crafted.... Rich and immensely readable.... A stream of flawless, driving sentences.... A great novel.” –O, The Oprah Magazine
“A marvelous book.” –Entertainment Weekly, “A”
“His most engrossing novel ever.” –Jay McInerney, The New York Observer