The Man in the Red Coat – Julian Barnes

The Man in the Red Coat was the first non-fiction book I read by Julian Barnes, of whom I had previously read The Sense of an Ending. I haven’t been sure what I thought of this interesting book I chose for my book club for a long time. The Man in the Red Coat was a book where I laughed a lot and asked myself, “why am I learning this?” at times, but I still strangely enjoyed reading it. If you love Julian Barnes and want to read a book about famous and interesting characters of the 19th century, this may be the book you are looking for.


The Man in the Red Coat touches many famous people’s lives by focusing on Samuel Pozzi, whose painting we see on the book’s cover. Meanwhile, it talks about developments in the field of gynaecology, exciting names from the world of art and literature, life in Europe and much more, of course, again based on Pozzi. When I first started reading the book, I kept up with the pace and continued with pleasure, but I realized that it made my head spin after a while. I always tried to understand the connection of people with each other and their relationship with Pozzi. However, when I decided not to worry about it, I realized that I could enjoy the book.

The Man in the Red Coat - Julian Barnes

It was an interesting experience to read in The Man in the Red Coat as Barnes touches on the differences between France and England and on some of the events that drove the UK towards Brexit. It is a book that connects the events from the past to the present and looks at the lives of the figures who left their mark on the 19th century.

You will meet many names from Oscar Wilde to Proust, Sarah Bernhardt to John Singer Sargent. In fact, you will question why so many characters are included in this book about doctor Pozzi. If you are going to read the book, my advice would be to avoid such questions and accept everything you read without question.

I rememberThe Man in the Red Coat in bits and pieces as I read it, unfortunately, with very heavy painkillers, and got lost involuntarily among all the names. But it was fun to take a look at life, artists and literature in the 19th century. Reading about Doctor Pozzi, I thought that behind all the paintings and sculptures we’ve seen, there are great stories behind them and that they are all lives worth examining. The next time I see a human statue or bust, I will try to learn more about that person. I must say I am grateful toThe Man in the Red Coat for making me so curious. Enjoy!

The Man in the Red Coat - Julian Barnes

The Man in the Red Coat

The Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending takes us on a rich, witty tour of Belle Epoque Paris, via the life story of the pioneering surgeon Samuel Pozzi

The Man in the Red Coat: In the summer of 1885, three Frenchmen arrived in London for a few days’ shopping. One was a Prince, one was a Count, and the third was a commoner with an Italian name, who four years earlier had been the subject of one of John Singer Sargent’s greatest portraits.

The three men’s lives play out against the backdrop of the Belle Epoque in Paris. The beautiful age of glamour and pleasure more often showed its ugly side: hysterical, narcissistic, decadent and violent, a time of rampant prejudice and blood-and-soil nativism, with more parallels to our own age than we might imagine.

Our guide through this world is Samuel Pozzi, society doctor, pioneer gynaecologist and free-thinker, a rational and scientific man with a famously complicated private life.

The Man in the Red Coat is at once a fresh and original portrait of the French Belle Epoque – its heroes and villains, its writers, artists and thinkers – and a life of a man ahead of his time. Witty, surprising and deeply researched, the new book from Julian Barnes illuminates the fruitful and longstanding exchange of ideas between Britain and France, and makes a compelling case for keeping that exchange alive.

Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes was born in Leicester, England on January 19, 1946. He was educated at the City of London School from 1957 to 1964 and at Magdalen College, Oxford, from which he graduated in modern languages (with honours) in 1968.

After graduation, he worked as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary supplement for three years. In 1977, Barnes began working as a reviewer and literary editor for the New Statesman and the New Review. From 1979 to 1986 he worked as a television critic, first for the New Statesman and then for the Observer.

Barnes has received several awards and honours for his writing, including the 2011 Man Booker Prize for The Sense of an Ending. Three additional novels were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (Flaubert’s Parrot 1984, England, England 1998, and Arthur & George 2005). Barnes’s other awards include the Somerset Maugham Award (Metroland 1981), Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (FP 1985); Prix Médicis (FP 1986); E. M. Forster Award (American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1986); Gutenberg Prize (1987); Grinzane Cavour Prize (Italy, 1988); and the Prix Femina (Talking It Over 1992).

Barnes was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1988, Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1995 and Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2004. In 1993 he was awarded the Shakespeare Prize by the FVS Foundation and in 2004 won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature.

In 2011 he was awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature. Awarded biennially, the prize honours a lifetime’s achievement in literature for a writer in the English language who is a citizen of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. He received the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence in 2013 and the 2015 Zinklar Award at the first annual Blixen Ceremony in Copenhagen.

In 2016, the American Academy of Arts & Letters elected Barnes as an honorary foreign member. Also in 2016, Barnes was selected as the second recipient of the Siegfried Lenz Prize for his outstanding contributions as a European narrator and essayist. On 25 January 2017, the French President appointed Julian Barnes to the rank of Officier in the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur.

The citation from the French Ambassador in London, Sylvie Bermann, reads: ‘Through this award, France wants to recognize your immense talent and your contribution to raising the profile of French culture abroad, as well as your love of France.’ He was awarded the 2021 Jerusalem Prize and the 2021 Yasnaya Polyana Prize, the latter for his book Nothing to Be Frightened Of. Also in 2021, he was awarded the Jean Bernard Prize, so named in memory of the great specialist in hematology who was a member of the French Academy and chaired the Academy of Medicine.

Julian Barnes has written numerous novels, short stories, and essays. He has also translated a book by French author Alphonse Daudet and a collection of German cartoons by Volker Kriegel. His writing has earned him considerable respect as an author who deals with the themes of history, reality, truth and love.The Man in the Red Coat is his last book.

Barnes lives in London.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

A Non-Fiction a Month

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