Natasha on Julian Barnes' Arthur and George:
As the creator of one of the most uniquely enduring of fictional characters, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's life has proven to be a source of endless fascination. His interest with spiritualism and the turbulent relationship with his most famous creation, which led to him pitching Holmes over the Reichenbach Falls at the height of his popularity and then reluctantly resurrecting him, have all been well documented; it would seem there's little mystery left - but in his latest novel Julian Barnes has chosen to focus on a lesser known aspect of the man's character.
... This is richly detailed (too much so apparently for Natasha Walter in the Guardian) and evidently impeccably researched book; both warmer and more accessible than you expect from Barnes. He combines Edalji's narrative with much of interest about Doyle's relationship with his mother (forever referred to with the definite article; as "The Mam"), his first wife Touie who died of tuberculosis and his long and unusual courtship of Jean Leckie, the woman who would become his second wife, though their relationship began long before Touie's death. There is also a strangely poignant epilogue that further explores Victorian "spiritism" and provides a level of closure not supplied by the main narrative itself - real events proving disappointingly anticlimactic - the true culprits behind the animal mutilations never being satisfactorily captured.