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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.
“His most engrossing novel ever.” —Jay McInerney, New York Observer
“Sprightly and acute.” —Robert Winder, New Statesman
“Powerfully moving, beautifully wrought and accomplished.” —Glasgow Herald
“From the first paragraphs we know ourselves to be in the hands of a major novelist and are borne forward by a compelling narrative, beautifully controlled, which combines the satisfactions of biography, social history and the excitement of a real-life detective story. This novel is Barnes at his best.” —PD James, The Times
“Arthur & George acquires a hypnotic force. The character study, the feel for the period and the dialogue are all beautifully done. And the way in which the police close in on Edalji is genuinely chilling . . . the mark of a true novelist.” —Andrew Martin, Daily Express
"What Barnes has done is to imagine, describe and dramatise this true story with fantastic control and subtlety . . . probably Barnes’s best yet.” —David Sexton, Evening Standard
“[A] beguiling and enormously readable novel.” —Andrew Taylor, The Independent
“One of the shrewdest English novelists, [Barnes] has an uncannily acute sense of what makes people, of all sorts, tick . . . What is remarkable, though, is the subtlety with which he goes about hijacking our fascination. In knowing what makes a great story, he has the instincts of a tabloid journalist, but in its delivery he displays the delicacy of a connoisseur who understands how to mete out his tale so quietly that when it bites, its mark is indelible . . . [Arthur and George] is a wholly absorbing portrait of late Victorian Britain and the attitudes it nurtured [and a] powerfully moving, beautifully wrought and accomplished novel.” —Rosemary Goring, The Herald
“One of Barnes's best, a beautiful and engrossing work which brings together some classic Barnesian themes (love, identity), introduces some new ones (spirituality, guilt and innocence), and hangs them all on a real-life miscarriage of justice from 100 years ago that was always going to be a gift for the first writer to spot its potential for re-imagining . . . We are in a late-19th century world of fob chains and propelling pencils, of order, duty, and propriety. But dark forces are at work, and the manner in which George becomes a victim of them is all the more shocking for the elegance and restraint of Barnes's narrative voice . . . It's like seeing Henry James turned loose on The Shawshank Redemption.” —Simon O'Hagan, The Independent
“Excellent . . . Both meticulously researched and vividly imagined, both gripping and thoughtful . . . You will turn the pages with mounting and almost intolerable tension.” —Caroline Moore, The Telegraph
“[Arthur & George] must surely be one of the year's finest novels . . . This is the kind of book Arthur Conan Doyle could never have written (far deeper psychological insight, far more sophisticated use of irony and awareness of the limits of fiction), yet it has all of the master's narrative panache . . . I can't think of a novel I've read in the last couple of years where the characters walk off the page as unstoppably as they do in Barnes's portrait of Doyle and Edalji . . . You want political social, legal context? You want Holmesian detail? You want to understand how spiritualism started up in an increasingly rational age? You want all that woven into the plot as subtly as the late Victorian language also is? It's all here . . . Barnes is showing us just what fiction can do and up to what point we can believe in it . . . but in subtly shading in the differences between the verbs 'believe,' 'think,' and 'know,'; in doing all that with superb characterization, riveting dialogue and all the while giving us a totally credible context, Julian Barnes makes an outstanding case for what the novel can do.” —David Robinson, The Scotsman
“Delightful . . . A thoroughly engrossing novel . . . that gradually enfolds the reader in a rich sense of period and place.” —Andrew Crumey, Scotland on Sunday
“Richly accomplished . . . a dazzling exercise in detective fiction of more kinds than one . . . [Arthur and George] explores the lasting effects of upbringing, the importance of scrutiny and evidence, and the role played in lives by narratives and beliefs . . . It is about close-to-home savagery behind the imperial facade, and unruly impulses festering beneath the veneer of decorum. 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.” —Peter Kemp, The Guardian
“With characteristically engaging intelligence, [Barnes] has taken the bones of a long-dead history and imbued them with vivid and memorable life.” —Tim Adams, The Observer
“Enthralling . . . Deeply satisfying . . . With a mystery at the heart of the narrative, every detail is a potential, welcome clue.”—Kirkus
"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 . . . 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 and stretching it yet again." —Publishers Weekly
"A beautiful, modulated work; highly recommended." —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal