Biographers usually tell the life story of a person with strong name recognition. It’s much harder to pull off the story of those who are largely forgotten. Few people today are likely to recognize Count Robert de Montesquiou, or Dr. Samuel Jean Pozzi, two of the principal figures in “The Man in the Red Coat.” Yet Julian Barnes succeeds brilliantly in bringing them to life, together with their Parisian contemporaries, in what is often remembered nostalgically as the Belle Époque.
The book opens with an account of a trip to London taken by Montesquiou and Pozzi and another friend in the summer of 1885. Their purpose was “intellectual and decorative shopping,” as Montesquiou put it. For Barnes, this prologue is essentially a device to introduce the art and personalities of what is evidently one of his favorite historical periods. The book contains no overarching narrative, but unfolds as a series of entertaining vignettes, circling back from time to time to Montesquiou and Pozzi.
— Read on www.nytimes.com/2020/02/21/books/review/the-man-in-the-red-coat-julian-barnes.html