Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

mike___

The first chapters of this book were a delight for me naming as they do local towns and villages here in the Black Country. Its not often in literature Bloxwich or Walsall are mentioned let alone Birmingham. Based on real events this story concerns Arthur Conan Doyle; author of Sherlock Holmes and George Edalji a young lawyer of mixed race origin living in late 19th century Staffordshire. They come together after "The Great Wyrley Outrages" leave George a victim of a miscarriage of justice. It hasn't ordinary chapters but each section is either marked "Arthur" or "George" and tells the background to each character and then the story from each point of view. The opening chapters were very compelling and the local Staffordshire village names are a delight to discover in the text. Once though the early lives are out of the way we get onto Conan Doyle's life and to be honest the narrative sags here never really recovering, there appears no closure in the book and frankly page after page of Conan Doyle's thought processes about being un faithful to his dying wife did get a little tedious. Whilst it's plain to see that Julian Barnes has gone to great lengths to get a lot of detail into the narrative there isn't really enough to get a good story going. It's well written and the descriptive passages especially early on are very good. But it does get tedious toward the end and by the time I had finished I wasn't interested about the characters at all. I suppose I could look up the facts about the cases mentioned in the book but after a tedious read I'm no longer interested. A shame really as it started so well. In hardback it has a delightful old-fashioned linen bound cover with blocked decoration - very nice indeed. So all in all worth a look but it does get a little weak - perhaps the attention to hard fact was a little much , perhaps a tilt toward fiction may have "helped" it along a little.

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