Arthur and George grow up worlds apart in late nineteenth-century Britain : Arthur in shabby-genteel Edinburgh. George in the vicarage of a small Staffordshire village. Arthur becomes a doctor, then a writer ; George a solicitor in Birmingham. Arthur is to become one of the most famous men of his age, while George remains in hard-working obscurity. But as the new century begins, they are brought together by a sequence of events that made sensational headlines at the tune as The Great Wyrley Outrages.
With a mixture of intense research and vivid imagination, Julian Barnes brings to life not just this long-forgotten case, but the inner workings of these two very different men. This is a novel in which the events of a hundred years ago constantly set off contemporary echoes, a novel about low crime and high spirituality, guilt and innocence, identity, nationality and race. Most of all it is a profound and moving meditation on the fateful differences between what we believe, what we know, and what we can prove.