Thursday, April 25, 2013

Good and Cheap (Books)! Day 23

People. JULIAN BARNES. Long before he won the Booker Prize for The Sense of an Ending, literature lovers loved Julian. I first discovered his incredible gift for storytelling and creating compelling characters with his Booker Prize finalist novel Arthur & George. It's a great place to start reading this contemporary master's works.

Julian Barnes
I was reminded of Arthur & George recently because I was reading an upcoming novel from the brilliant Valerie Martin called The Ghost of the Mary Celeste (which I will be requiring EVERYONE to read next winter, when it goes on sale. Don't worry; I'll remind you), because the two books share a character. Arthur of Arthur & George is Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes and a literary celebrity during his lifetime. He's an over-the-top historical figure--a doctor, renowned author, prominent member of British society, and noted spiritualist. Thus, he's a compelling fictional character too. Normally I'm not a series reader, but I would happily devour a whole collection of Arthur Conan Doyle-as-character literary novels.

Arthur Conan Doyle
So, Arthur & George. Arthur is a huge celebrity and well aware of his place in the world. George is...a nobody. George is the son of a  Parsi vicar and Scottish mother and sooooo socially awkward. He's a man who's struggled with his identity his entire life and, though he's a lawyer, he's friendless. When cattle are mutilated in his small town, George is the scapegoat. Desperate, George sends a letter to Arthur, and the creator of Sherlock Holmes decides that this is his opportunity to play detective in real life.

With Arthur & George, Julian Barnes manages to make the Victorian Era contemporary, and there's plenty to discuss here. Race, celebrity, love, spiritualism, incredible writing and characterization, and some whodunit elements that keep things moving. Love this book. Love this author.

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