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Publisher's Summary

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

In the summer of 1885, three Frenchmen arrived in London for a few days' intellectual shopping: a prince, a count, and a commoner with an Italian name. In time, each of these men would achieve a certain level of renown, but who were they then and what was the significance of their sojourn to England? Answering these questions, Julian Barnes unfurls the stories of their lives which play out against the backdrop of the Belle Epoque in Paris. Our guide through this world is Samuel Pozzi, the society doctor, free-thinker, and man of science with a famously complicated private life who was the subject of one of John Singer Sargent's greatest portraits. In this vivid tapestry of people (Henry James, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, Proust, James Whistler, among many others), place, and time, we see not merely an epoch of glamour and pleasure, but, surprisingly, one of violence, prejudice, and nativism - with more parallels to our own age than we might imagine. 

The Man in the Red Coat is, at once, a fresh portrait of the Belle Epoque; an illuminating look at the longstanding exchange of ideas between Britain and France; and a life of a man who lived passionately in the moment but whose ideas and achievements were far ahead of his time.

©2019 Julian Barnes (P)2019 Recorded Books

What listeners say about The Man in the Red Coat

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Pathetic narration makes this title unbearable

I am a great admirer of Julian Barnes, so I feel cheated by this production. The narrator's rendering of French words and phrases is preposterous, inconsistent, and frequently incomprehensible. The mannered cadence of his English is ponderous and overdone. After four hours of listening, I could bear no more. The author and listeners deserve better!

15 people found this helpful

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shocking mispronunciations, just shocking

how is it possible that this book is read by a man who has never learned a single word of french? every name, all quotes in french, all titles of french books are butchered! it's terrifying, ugly. is the author aware of this?

15 people found this helpful

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Terrible reader. I couldn't continue.

While I always listen to a sample of potential audiobook purchases to see if the reader's voice itself is agreeable, nothing could have prepared me for what I heard today, when I started listening to my audiobook. Russell Bentley's mispronunciation of French was so egregiously horrible I had to stop listening, and I really wanted to listen to this book, as the subject is of great interest to me. For instance: "Arribo" for "À Rebours," "MaLOM" for "Mallarmé," and "Sadé" for "Sade." These are hardly obscure names when dealing with this subject matter; and those are just some of the worst. In addition, when reading translated excerpts from French writers, Mr Bentley has chosen a completely unnecessary French accent. I question the judgment of whoever hired him to read The Man in the Red Coat. I think a great disservice has been done to Julian Barnes and his subject; I'm exchanging this audiobook, and I'm going to read the book the "old-fashioned" way.

8 people found this helpful

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Julian Barnes should protest

I should have followed the advice of earlier reviewers and skipped this in audio, but I thought Julian Barnes’s writing would transcend poor reading. I was wrong. Sadly, this pompous and slow performance stifles any humor or irony. I had to stop listening after and hour and a quarter.

5 people found this helpful

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Delightful

Julian Barnes offers a dazzlingly erudite and delightfully droll view of La Belle Époque through the prism of one of its most respected figures, Samuel Pozzi, a renowned French surgeon and stealthy lothario (now most famous as being the subject of a magisterial portrait by John Singer Sargent).

This is Barnes at his very best!

It should be noted that the comments about the narrator Saul Reichlin’s performance are dead wrong. He may on occasion not pronounce certain French words properly. However, Mr. Reichlin’s narration finds the perfect level of tambour; and encapsulates the pitch, vivacity and vibrancy of a 19th century dandy. Bravo!

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Will Recommend This Book to Friends

For years I lived in the Westwood section of Los Angeles, not a mile from the Armand Hammer Museum. From time to time I would take a walk to the museum to visit Dr. Pozzi at Home. I had no idea that the man was as remarkable if not more so than his absorbing portrait by Sargent. What a treat to have this biography now that I live almost a thousand miles from the museum and can't visit him whenever I have a free afternoon.

1 person found this helpful

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The Sense of an Era

Julian Barnes has written a kaleidoscopic survey of high society in the “Belle Epoque” of Paris in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He focuses on Dr. Samuel Pozzi, a brilliant and innovative surgeon. Dr. Pozzi was also a philanderer, a lover of culture and a person-about-town. Pozzi was the man in the red coat, the subject of a full-length portrait by John Singer Sargent, a sensitive painting that caught Barnes’ eye and served as the inspiration for this history. But as Barnes studies the growing circle around Dr. Pozzi, figures as unlike as Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Sarah Bernhardt, Samuel Lister and even, briefly, PT Barnum fill out the portrait of an era.

Barnes writes in paisley prose, curving off into one colorful digression after another. He informs us about the uses of dueling, the nature of portrait painting, the sympathy of French courts for crimes of passion, the mysteries of conjugal love (Dr. and Mme. Pozzi had a deeply troubled marriage yet produced a late-in-life baby) and the difficulty of biography (ultimately, as Barnes repeatedly notes of the historic questions, “we cannot know.”) His style is erudite but amusing. My only hesitation is the obscurity of many of the prominent figures in the book, people whose names I did not recognize and whose lives did not especially interest me.

I found the narration excellent. Saul Reichlin spoke with bemused interest, and unlike other reviewers here, I had no problem with his French pronunciation. His reading increased my enjoyment of this likeable historic survey.

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Interesting but rambling story

It was interesting about these three protagonists, but rambled a lot about this and that in the belle époque. Just perfect for stilling at home during the covid-19 lock down.

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History through a painting's subject

An engrossing niche history lesson told around the subject of the beautiful Sargent painting, the French physician Samuel Pozzi. This story touches on so many of the cultural, social, scientific, medical, and mechanical changes that were occuring during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, using Dr Pozzi as the point of intersection. Pozzi was, while quite famous in his primary field of gynochology, connected to and mostly friends with some of the most famous people of this era. Royalty, artists, authors, physicians, actors and politicians parade through this enlightening history. If you are a student of history, or enjoy a story where everything is ultimately connected, this is a wonderful book.

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Good pronunciation

This is an excellent book. But I would like to take issue with the reviewer who was outraged by the narrator’s pronunciation of the multitude of French terms. I speak French myself and can’t imagine a better rendition from an Englishman who pronounces it accurately without losing his own accent.