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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.
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 of characters: a 5th-century bishop, writer of the neo-Plantonic text, "The Dream of Scipio", an 11th-century scholar and troubador, and an early 20th-century scholar who, studying the troubador, rediscovers the text.
The questions it raises (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?) are relevant today.
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.
It's not the most ... how shall I say ? ... not the most *enjoyable* book I've ever read, but THE BEST.
How can a writer tell his readers up front the fate of his protagonist/s and keep them rivetted throughout ?
How can he interweave three tales so craftily that you don't really feel the hundreds of years fall away or add themselves on as you move between them ?
How can he create people out of his words so real that you're convinced they must have played their parts in history ?
And how is it that when the reader closes the book after the last page, he or she feels only uplifted by the experience of having read it ?
By heaven, if I could find that genie in that bottle, I would have it make me a writer like Iain Pears.