Deserving of comparison to the works of John Fowles and Umberto Eco, Iain Pears' stunning new novel is an ingenious tour de force. In England of the 1660s, a young woman is accused of the murder of a New College fellow, who has been found dead under mysterious circumstances. Four extremely diverse witnesses give their accounts of the events--but ...
Deserving of comparison to the works of John Fowles and Umberto Eco, Iain Pears' stunning new novel is an ingenious tour de force. In England of the 1660s, a young woman is accused of the murder of a New College fellow, who has been found dead under mysterious circumstances. Four extremely diverse witnesses give their accounts of the events--but only one reveals the extraordinary truth.
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Writing a novel which really contains four novels in one - each from a different person's point of view is, well, novel.
I found the book hard going in places. The author has tight, well-written sections, but his links sometimes are a bit pedestrian to my tastes.
But, dear reader, persevere to the end and I think, like me, you'll not begrudge the time it took to go from cover to cover.
Jan 12, 2010
While I admit I enjoyed the first section 'A Question of Precedence' and even part of the second section, I soon found that the change in perspectives and narration was incredibly confusing and overly complicated. It reminded me of 'The Shark Net' by Robert Drewe in that the plot depended heavily on the reader's ability to recall details of events described earlier in the book and recognize when the same event is being retold from someone else's perspective.
In short, I was unable to finish this book despite the fact that the literary difficulty was quite average, it simply became too confusing to the point I wasn't able to enjoy it.
Three stars for the first section which was very interesting and Pear's attempt at a complicated writing style.
Publishers Weekly, 1997-12-01 This massive, delightfully titled literary thriller (it's a quote from Sir Francis Bacon) is the kind of gamble it's great to see a publisher taking in these often timid times. The English author, responsible so far for a series of conventional mysteries, has gone back to 17th-century Oxford for an absorbing, macabre tale of murder, politics, faith and betrayal. Featured in more than incidental roles are such real-life characters as John Locke, Sir Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, King Charles II and the Earl of Clarendon. The murder by poisoning of Robert Grove, a Fellow of New College, and the subsequent trial and execution for the crime of Sarah Blundy, daughter of a freethinking early Socialist and anti-Royalist, is the heart of the action, which is related in four separate first-person accounts, each the length of a short novel. There is Marco da Cola, a good-hearted Venetian visitor whose irritable reflections on the English are witty and betray a perfect period ear; Jack Prestcott, a fiery young lawyer devoted to proving that his father, disgraced as a traitor, was himself betrayed; John Wallis, priest, mathematician and cryptographer of genius (also a real character), whose coldly cynical schemes set off a series of dazzlingly complex political maneuvers; and bookish scholar Anthony Wood, a background figure to the rest, but whose consuming love for Sarah makes him ultimately the central actor in the drama. Pears's grasp of the thought of the time, with its scientific zeal curbed always by what seems now like excess religiosity, its ferocious plotting and counterplotting, its struggles for power and position, is sure. Though there are many digressions, most are fascinating, and the book boasts an overall narrative momentum that carries even an ill-informed contemporary reader along. There will be inevitable comparisons with the work of Umberto Eco, but it seems likely that many of those who have bought Eco's books will find Pears by far the more accessible. 80,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; BOMC main selection; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Holland and Italy. (Mar.)
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