Quarantine read: Readers suggest soothing books like ‘The Man in the Red Coat’ – Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Man in the Red Coat, by Julian Barnes

After a recent four-year traversal through In Search of Lost Time (I loved it), followed by a reading of William Carters 900-page Proust biography (very good), I figured I was through with Belle poque Paris, Proust and all things Proustian for a while.

Not so. Because someone recommended Julian Barnes The Man in the Red Coat.

The man is Dr. Samuel Pozzi, and the red coat is the one he wears in John Singer Sargents elegant 1881 oil portrait, Dr. Pozzi at Home. Pozzi was a renowned surgeon (he was friends with the Mayo brothers, visited them in Rochester) and pioneer in gynecology. By all accounts, the cultured, popular Pozzi was kind and generous; a devoted family man; and a serial adulterer with famous mistresses, including actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Pozzi was a friend of the Proust family and knew Marcel personally. Barnes draws on this connection to present a discursive, gossipy panorama of this captivating period, pointing out that numerous persons in the Pozzi-Proust arena became memorable characters in Prousts great novel, including Pozzi himself.

This is a great read, even if youre not a Belle poque Proustian. Magpie-like, the sly, observant Barnes snatches bits of glittery, alluring stuff from all over, turning it into a shimmering work thats edifying, funny and a genuine pleasure to read.

L.K. Hanson, Minneapolis

Quarantine Read are recommendations of soothing books during fraught times. Send your suggestion, with your name and city, to books@startribune.com.

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Quarantine read: Readers suggest soothing books like 'The Man in the Red Coat' - Minneapolis Star Tribune

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