"May well be the best historical mystery ever written," proclaimed The Sunday Boston Globe about Iain Pears's An Instance of the Fingerpost, while Booklist called its publication "a major literary event." Iain Pears's international bestseller was greeted with front-page reviews ("A crafty, utterly mesmerizing intellectual thriller"--The Washington Post Book World), named a New York Times Notable Book, and hailed as a Book to Remember by the New York Public Library. Now he returns with a greatly anticipated novel that is so brilliantly constructed, the author himself describes it as "a complexity."
The centuries are the fifth (the final days of the Roman Empire); the fourteenth (the years of the Black Death); and the twentieth (World War II). The setting for each is the same--Provence--and each has at its heart a love story. The narratives intertwine seamlessly, but what joins them thematically is an ancient text--"The Dream of Scipio"--a work of neo-Platonism that poses timeless philosophical questions. What is the obligation of the individual in a society under siege? What is the role of learning when civilization itself is threatened, whether by acts of man or nature? Does virtue lie more in engagement or in neutrality? "Power without wisdom is tyranny; wisdom without power is pointless," warns one of Pears's characters.
The Wall Street Journal
Complex, surprising and thought-provoking, a dream of a novel in more sense than one.
An enormously accomplished work that stand as a learned novel of ideas, a meditation on history and a moving love story, all rolled into one volume.
Library Journal - Barbara Hoffert
... the plotting is a marvel; the text moves smoothly among the three eras, drawing parallels that rarely seem forced. In the end, Pears asks good, cutting questions about the idea of civilization, showing that those who claim to preserve it are often its worst enemies.
Pears' elaborate narrative triptych is dazzling for its structure, its complexity, and the richness of thought that gives it texture. But, finally, it is the passion of the love stories, undercutting bloodless philosophy while embracing the messiness of life, that lets the novel soar.
This imposingly intricate novel begins slowly, makes heavy demands on the reader, and rises to a stunningly dramatic crescendo
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by coralie  the dream of scipio First impressions of this book include the complexity and intricacy of the plot- hard to keep up with but when one adapts oneself the the writing style, one finds an excellent account of history to revel and lose oneself in.
Rated of 5
A most unusual, and rather difficult book, but well worth the effort.
Pears, the author of An Instance of the Fingerpost, has written an historical novel, but one which takes place at three different times, with three different casts... Read More
Rated of 5
by M.-R. Stringer
I'm no literary critic. I have a brother-in-law who is, and much published, and I know that what he does I can't possibly do. But I *am* a reader, and an omnivorous one. And I LOVE this book. I believe it's the best book I've ever... Read More
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