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England, England
Peter Childs

England, England (1998) is a fictional study around issues such as the creation of the past, the re-fashioning of an imagined national community, and in particular the telling and selling of England. It explores the relationships between heritage and commercialism, history and exploitation, imitation and reality. It is a fantasy, but one that has many recent echoes and real-life parallels. Its central story is that of a powerful businessman who plans to turn the Isle of Wight into a colossal theme park so that tourists will not have to traipse from Dover to London to Stratford-on-Avon to Chester. It counterposes the pomp of Sir Jack Pitman's service-sector magnate with Martha Cochrane's everyday scepticism.

in Julian Barnes
Cross Channel and The Lemon Table
Peter Childs

Barnes has written two volumes of loosely connected short stories. The first, Cross Channel (1995), is explicitly focused on a topic often associated with Barnes and his writing, the relationship between England and France. The second, The Lemon Table (2004), engages a number of themes that striate Barnes's work, such as ageing and death. It is a collection that treats in fictional form issues raised by his later memoir Nothing to Be Frightened of.

in Julian Barnes
Arthur & George
Peter Childs

Arthur & George is a book about unlikely pairings and questionable divisions. It is a fiction about truth and relativity, perception and rationality, fear and authority. Drawing on the real-life investigation by Arthur Conan Doyle of a miscarriage of justice, it explores the borderlines of nationality and ethnicity, evidence and imagination, doubt and faith, fact and fiction, endings and beginnings. It underlines the power of narrative to weave a plot from scraps of unsubstantiated information, in which the key factors are conviction and prejudice. Part of the intrigue of the book is directed at the play on distinctions between fact and fabulation, and Barnes seems deeply sceptical throughout his fiction of the notion of an accurate version of events.

in Julian Barnes