Sunday, August 26, 2007

Laura's Review: Arthur and George

Arthur and George
Julian Barnes
441 pages

First sentence: A child wants to see.

Reflections: 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! ( )

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found this book to be so well written and absorbing. I gradually became very fond of George. Then I slowly tumbled to what was going to happen to him and I couldn't bear it. I had to stop reading. I guess that is a tribute to the writing. I had become so involved with him that the suspense was too much for me. I never did finish it. Ellen