The Belle Époque is retrospectively viewed as one of the most optimistic, influential and creative periods of time in Western history. From the late 19th century up to the start of World War I in 1914, numerous regions of the world experienced artistic growth, economic development and an overall peace between the most powerful national interests.
Enthralled after viewing a portrait of Dr. Samuel Jean Pozzi painted by John Singer Sargent, author Julian Barnes was inspired to dive deeper into studying this epoch using Pozzi as a focal point. The result is The Man in the Red Coat, a direct reference to what Dr. Pozzi wears in the painting Barnes had seen.
The Man in the Red Coat is part biography and part wide-ranging history. As Dr. Pozzi’s social circle grows to include the Proust family and de Maupassant (just to name a couple), Barnes’ writing hits its highest note. There is a clear joy when Barnes is detailing the progression and self-expression that blossomed personally, artistically, sexually and professionally among Dr. Pozzi and his contemporaries during this time.
Barnes is extremely clever (and often humorous) when interjecting his personal opinion, and there is a concerted effort to move The Man in the Red Coat away from the typical trappings of a historical non-fiction work.
Review by Joel
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