Synopses & Reviews
"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.
"[Pears's] latest novel, The Dream of Scipio
, is another category-buster, a work of such philosophical and cultural complexity that its greatest mystery is 'How can Pears know so much?' Pears's canvas has never been larger (Western culture), or his concerns more profound (What is civilization?). Summarizing this complicated story risks intimidating readers away, but while it's good to be prepared for some work this is another wildly entertaining novel....Each of these three story lines is so compelling that every break inspires a little regret that you have to leave one and a little thrill that you get to rejoin another....This is a novel for our time about all time. Those who ignore Iain Pears are doomed to repeat the past." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire CSM review
"The Dream of Scipio is complex, surprising and thought-provoking, a dream of a novel in more senses than one." The Wall Street Journal
"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." Bill Ott, Booklist (Starred Review)
This is a dream that will stay with the reader for a long, long time. (Montreal Gazette)
"Pears has a nice sense of what it means to live in a time when things fall apart, and not only the center but even the peripheries will not hold. But the readers who flocked to An Instance of the Fingerpost might not find the pages turning so fast in this less mystery-driven outing." Publishers Weekly
The bestselling author of "An Instance of the Fingerpost" intertwines three intellectual mysteries, three love stories--and three of the darkest moments in human history: the final days of the Roman Empire, the grim years of the Black Death, and the direst hours of World War II.
About the Author
Iain Pears was born in 1955. Educated at Wadham College, Oxford, he has worked as a journalist, an art historian and a television consultant. He is the author of seven highly praised detective novels, a book of art history and countless articles on artistic, financial and historical subjects, and the international phenomenon An Instance of the Fingerpost.