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Arthur & George: 10/08/06

Arthur & George

I have really mixed feelings about Arthur & George by which Julian Barnes was short listed for the 2005 Man Booker Price. It makes a wonderful audio book. I was first introduced to it as an audio book read on Radio 4. Intrigued by what I had heard, I joined a book ring. It arrived last month and I've since then been struggling to read it even though I've already experienced the story in a different medium.

The problem I'm having with the book is that it lacks chapters in the conventional sense and the plot rapidly fluctuates between the characters Arthur and George. For the first two hundred pages the two characters are completely separate. Without knowing how these people line up at first and as a foreigner not being familiar with the places mentioned, I find myself not able to keep track of what is happening. I hate books that make me feel like I'm reading at the event horizon of a black hole, hoping to snatch up a few words as the text flies into oblivion.

As this book is based on actual events and is historical fiction, I have the feeling that the author was trying to put as much of each person's life in the book as possible. A lot of the early details could have been left out. The ultimate story of Arthur's aid in George's legal case is undermined by a whole bunch of padding.

When I wrote my initial review I had decided to give up on the book. The night after I wrote it, I had an epiphany on how to read the book. I would have to read it from one character's point of view and then go back and read the other character's story. That is what I've done the last few days. The original review is posted below:

I enjoyed the Radio 4 version. Whatever editing job they did to the book improved the story greatly. The story in its original book form is not as engaging. I don't like the bouncing back and forth between characters, nor do I like the book report approach to each scene. I know things will pick up somewhere past the halfway point but frankly there are other books I'd prefer to read.

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