Arthur & George, Julian Barnes
Random House Canada, 357 pages
Sometimes, despite the most conscientious of choices, a life can become derailed. George, for example, studied hard throughout his childhood, graduated from law school, and found a position in a Birmingham firm. He was happy in his work, had made his parents proud, and returned each evening to the vicarage in Staffordshire to help his family in whatever way he could. Then all of a sudden, on the flimsiest of evidence, George was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison. A legal career in shambles and reputation tarnished, George’s life was over before his thirtieth birthday.
Arthur, too, found himself in the most unexpected of circumstances. Shortly after graduating from medical school, Arthur fell in love with the sweet, agreeable Louisa Hawkins, who proved to be a wonderfully supportive of all of Arthur’s ambitions. When their children were still quite young, Louisa fell ill with consumption, which prevented her from living anything but a retiring sort of life. Arthur, however, was markedly unsuited to quiet living, so Louisa encouraged him to pursue grand adventures on his own. After a while, Arthur met the vivacious and captivating Jean who readily joined him in everything, and the two became chaste soulmates. Then Louisa died, and the disloyalty of his emotional affair with Jean paralyzed him to his very core.
George spent three years in prison reviewing his situation and reading the classics. Convinced that the reinstatement of his right to practice law rested on clearing his good name, George Edalji wrote to the passionate, bombastic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to take on his real-life case. Spurred into action by the injustice of George’s predicament, Arthur began to investigate with a fervour that would have pleased even Sherlock Holmes himself.
Based on the events that led to the creation of the Courts of Appeal, Arthur & George is the engrossing story of two very different men fighting for honour in a topsy-turvy world.