I was drawn to this book not because it was a Booker finalist but to the cover. Somehow the simplicity of it drew me.
Julian Barnes has written detective stories before under a pseudonym. He then went on to the "proper
novels" and then combined them both - Arthur Conan Doyle at his best delivering justice after a proper detection and this book is the result.
Two more English men could not be found - we have Arthur gregarious, witty, clever, outgoing and athletic and we have George quiet, stolid, unassuming and with a Parsi surname which took me by surprise. Totally by surprise as I thought we were all dealing with two Englishmen. George with a Parsi surname was more English than the English themselves and did not even consider himself Indian in anyway. Born into a quiet family in Staffordshire in a Vicarage we have George thrust into the limelight, accused and jailed for mutilating farm animals in the most horrendous fashion. Reading the story and knowing the background of George it was unbelievable that a jury or a judge could believe that the quiet man George could be guilty of such a heinous crime. George had somehow upset the Chief Constable of the region who could not be shaken in his belief of George's guilt and though George throughout his narrative insisted that race was not part of the issue at stake here, I think he was a bit too naive to think that cautious, conservative Englishmen could accept a Vicar who was Asian and that George was a ready scapegoat at the time - unsuitable though he was. How a family who lived peacefully amongst the village without any animosity towards any neighbour or parishioner could not drum any kind of support amongst the villagers was for me very unusual. The Edalji family were quiet enough not to anger anyone, they did not flaunt riches or fashion, but they could not find anyone who would speak up for them.
For George it was a lucky day when Arthur decided to take on his case and to see that justice was done. Despite overwhelming odds and a justice system that was heavily weighted in favour of one section of society Arthur was literally the knight in shining armour for poor George. Two men of tw different temperaments and character beautifully mesh together in this novel . The feel of Edwardian England is very pronounced as well and I liked the descriptive quality of the read.
Throughout the book I felt I was reading something written a very long time ago as it had such an old fashioned feel. It was a nice feeling though and I am glad I got to this book.