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Arthur Who Wrote Sherlock

Authored by Linda Bailey
Illustrated by Isabelle Follath
Published by Andersen Press

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Arthur Who Wrote Sherlock: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s name will always be associated with Sherlock Holmes and, in this book, Linda Bailey and Isabelle Follath explore both the influences on Conan Doyle that led him to create fiction’s most famous detective, and the complex relationship that developed between the writer and his most successful creation. Conan Doyle’s childhood was hardly idyllic, and the visualisation of the stories that he created as a means of escape (and entertainment for others) provide fantastical elements to Follath’s illustrations of his life, which then go on to depict the world of Conan Doyle and the adventures of the inhabitant of 221b Baker Street. 

Bailey’s text is written in the historic present, making events appear immediate as we join Conan Doyle from his poor childhood, through unhappy days at school, his medical training, his attempts to become an author, and then (inevitably) to the creation of Sherlock Holmes and the consequences of the success of the Baker Street detective. Conan Doyle’s life was peppered with dramatic events, which clearly influenced his penchant for writing adventures, and these allow Bailey to pose direct questions to the reader about plausibility – both of Conan Doyle’s personal history and his literary devices. It should be noted that Bailey doesn’t shy away from what could be considered as the difficult aspects of Conan Doyle’s life, and she highlights his father’s struggles with alcohol, but also addresses his striving for social justice and work to support the Anglo-Indian lawyer George Edalji, who had suffered from the institutional racism of Victorian England.

Follath’s illustrations draw on a muted palette to create stylised and almost flat pictures that are often double-page spreads, sometimes presented as montages of the literal, imaginary and metaphorical. They thus help the reader, of 7 years upwards, not only to fill the world of Arthur Conan Doyle as it is narrated, but also to see inside his thought processes.