Book Review: The man in the red coat | by Julian Barnes

Book Review: The man in the red coat | by Julian Barnes

The man in the red coat book

In this blog, we will be discussing the author, summary, book reviews, and ratings.


Julian Barnes is a British writer. He has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize three times and finally won the prize for The Sense of Ending.


The Hammer Museum, located in Los Angeles, United States, has a life-sized portrait titled as Dr. Pozzi at Home, an 1881 painting by American artist John Singer Sargent. When Julian Barnes first encountered the portrait of Pozzi it was on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2015, he was taken back by the man dressed in scarlet and even more bewitched by the occupant. This portrait incited the author to pen  down another exemplary work like never before.

The book is also themed around the current events of Brexit which has been a result of Xenophobia and National chauvinism. The author indicates the facts of how Britain and its European neighbors have at all times enriched one another. The book commemorates the principal characters who overlooked national chauvinism, and how their broad-mindedness, curiosity, and keenness helped them thrive and achieve eminence.

To address this issue the author Julian Barnes takes the reader to the summer of 1885 when three Frenchmen turn up in London for shopping. Barnes introduces these characters of  La Belle Epoque (The Beautiful Era,1870-1914 Europe). Dr. Samuel Pozzi, a saluted socialite and gynecologist born to a Swiss Italian family; Count (historical title of nobility in Europe) Montesquiou, a litterateur and a self-proclaimed esthete whose taste was distinguished throughout Paris; and Prince Edmond de Polignac, a reserved and zealous aristocrat and an ambitious composer.

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The author sheds light on Dr. Pozzi, after becoming a famous doctor in Paris and a relationship with the actress Sara Bernhardt, who married and settled down with an affluent aristocrat Therese Loth Cazalis. The book further addresses dandy as a movement in the Le Belle Epoque (The Beautiful Era) and discovers the views of the famous dandies of the time and their views on beauty, morality, and mortality.

Barnes discusses the era of painting and investigates the facts and rumors of the infamous painting Madame X painted by John Singer Sargent, which illustrated a known married woman posing seductively.

Dr. Samuel Pozzi was an extraordinary man, most women were obliged to Pozzi due to his exemplary services in the field of gynecology, besides his immediate relatives. He had translated Joseph Lister’s work on Antiseptic Surgery into French and instigated advanced standards of antiseptics, guiding the path for benign abdominal surgeries. He removed countless ovarian cysts, travels to America and learns the innovative techniques of the time, and also innovates the clamps for compressing blood vessels. He also advised the doctors to perform surgeries as a last resort, which was rampant back then.

The book ends when a patient’s impotency couldn’t be cured after an attempt at surgery, and the dissatisfied patient shoots Pozzi. In the end, Barnes reflects on the Heroic Doctor and the life he lived. He finds him to be mesmerizing and brave.


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