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Summary

The Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending takes us on a rich, witty tour of Belle Epoque Paris, via the life story of the pioneering surgeon Samuel Pozzi.

In the summer of 1885, three Frenchmen arrived in London for a few days’ shopping. One was a Prince, one was a Count, and the third was a commoner with an Italian name, who four years earlier had been the subject of one of John Singer Sargent’s greatest portraits.

The three men's lives play out against the backdrop of the Belle Epoque in Paris. The beautiful age of glamour and pleasure more often showed its ugly side: hysterical, narcissistic, decadent and violent, a time of rampant prejudice and blood-and-soil nativism, with more parallels to our own age than we might imagine. 

Our guide through this world is Samuel Pozzi, society doctor, pioneer gynaecologist and free-thinker, a rational and scientific man with a famously complicated private life.

The Man in the Red Coat is at once a fresh and original portrait of the French Belle Epoque – its heroes and villains, its writers, artists and thinkers – and a life of a man ahead of his time. Witty, surprising and deeply researched, the new book from Julian Barnes illuminates the fruitful and longstanding exchange of ideas between Britain and France and makes a compelling case for keeping that exchange alive.

©2019 Julian Barnes (P)2019 W. F. Howes Ltd

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Spellbound from start to finish- fascinating.

Learned so much about so many from this wonderful book. Wilde, de Polignac, Winoretta Singer, Tourette and Bernhardt. Art, music and finest application of Medicine beautifully explored and the belle epoque laid bare. Whole thing is spoiled somewhat by jarring and inappropriately political "Authors Note" recorded at very end. A postscript that is mercifully brief but brings reader/listener to question judgement of the person who's account they have just listened to. Did you really need to "J.B"? Don't let my report of the grim epilogue recorded summer of 2019 deter you however. It is an outstanding book.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A bit of common sense when choosing a narrator!

I love Julian Barnes and again he produced a book where his intelligence and wit shines throughout. A bit long however and with a few repetitions, it would have come out much stronger if a little more concise. However, my main concern is the narrator. First of all, his delivery is a bit slow I think. Second, this book is all about France and French culture. Of all the possible readers, why pick someone with such a terrible French accent? I am French and I am not writing this to be pedantic but honestly, I had to concentrate really hard every time a French name or word was read out to work out who or what it was! It is not even consistent, sometimes it is said one way and 10 minutes later another way (and in most cases wrongly both times). Even more annoying is the way the narrator suddenly decides to start speaking English with a French Allo Allo way for no reason, most often when reading a letter or quoting someone. It is not the accent that annoys me, I don't find it offensive when it would be easy to do so, but once again it seems to be dispensed at pure random! Finally, there are a few sentences in the book that are read in German and it sounds to me that the narrator's German is at least as bad as his French. Why couldn't Julian Barnes record it himself? Or other actors at least vaguely francophone? Terrible pick. Such a waste...

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  • J
  • 08-11-20

A very well written and researched book.

A very well written and researched book. However, not a 'story'. This would have made an excellent BBC documentary but lacks the flow of a proper story, essential for an audio book. Interesting subject matter and the famous figures of the time like Wilde and Bernhardt are brought in which gives a great feel of society in that time. I had to force myself to finish it with the incentive of following it with a more traditional story structure next time! The narrator is excellent and delivers the humorous parts very well. I wouldn't recommend the book though, unless to someone interested in the history of medicine or the development of gynecological procedures.

1 person found this helpful