Julian Barnes | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Julian Barnes

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Perhaps the gentle reader should beware the spoilers ahead, but then again none are fatal: Julian Barnes's latest novel, Arthur & George (Knopf), packs a lot of suspense, but the text is rich enough to stand without it. Barnes has been accused of postmodernism, but while he may toy with structure his prose is ever transparent. In this outing, once he reveals that his "Arthur" is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Barnes lets the book rest on a hefty body of research about the life of the writer, whom he depicts as a noble-hearted bull in a china shop. "George" is George Edalji, a nebbishy half-Indian lawyer (and an excellent foil for the larger-than-life Doyle) who's been imprisoned for a violent crime he's too myopic to have carried out. Doyle hears of this miscarriage of justice while he's puzzling over a dilemma of honor he's gotten into with the fairer sex. The Edalji case offers a chance for Sir Arthur to prove himself on the up-and-up plus a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes--so he mounts his proverbial steed. Will our hero save the solicitor in distress? Can sterling intentions prevail in a fallen world? Will he figure out girls? I've spoiled enough. Sun 2/5, 2 PM, Book Stall at Chestnut Court, 811 Elm, Winnetka, 847-446-8880; Mon 2/6, 6 PM, Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton, 312-255-3700.

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