Jump to content
dogmatix

An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears

Recommended Posts

Well I've just started this one and it's turning out to be a real page turner. An historical fiction with science, intrigue and of course murder; it's Ecco meets Conan Doyle (not entirely my idea there but I agree).

 

The prose is well constructed but unlike Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which bored many readers, the plot keeps moving quickly along and I've not found myself "measuring" the edge of the book to see how far I've got to go (come on we all do it!)

 

The plot centers around the murder of a college official in the 1600's and although I'm not far enough in yet I believe the story is to be told from multiple character's perspectives which intriguingly and enticingly don't match up very well.

 

I love the characers and also the raw and often bloody medieval style of medicine practiced throughout the story. The book is graphic but apropriately and not to excess and the descriptions really add to the grity ambiance of this great story.

 

Anyone else read this?

 

 

Here's a brief review from Amazon

 

An Instance of the Fingerpost is that rarest of all possible literary beasts--a mystery powered as much by ideas as by suspects, autopsies, and smoking guns. Hefty, intricately plotted, and intellectually ambitious, Fingerpost has drawn the inevitable comparisons to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and, for once, the comparison is apt.

 

The year is 1663, and the setting is Oxford, England, during the height of Restoration political intrigue. When Dr. Robert Grove is found dead in his Oxford room, hands clenched and face frozen in a rictus of pain, all the signs point to poison. Rashomon-like, the narrative circles around Grove's murder as four different characters give their version of events: Marco da Cola, a visiting Italian physician--or so he would like the reader to believe; Jack Prestcott, the son of a traitor who fled the country to avoid execution; Dr. John Wallis, a mathematician and cryptographer with a predilection for conspiracy theories; and Anthony Wood, a mild-mannered Oxford antiquarian whose tale proves to be the book's "instance of the fingerpost." (The quote comes from the philosopher Bacon, who, while asserting that all evidence is ultimately fallible, allows for "one instance of a fingerpost that points in one direction only, and allows of no other possibility.") Like The Name of the Rose, this is one whodunit in which the principal mystery is the nature of truth itself. Along the way, Pears displays a keen eye for period details as diverse as the early days of medicine, the convoluted politics of the English Civil War, and the newfangled fashion for wigs. Yet Pears never loses sight of his characters, who manage to be both utterly authentic denizens of the 17th century and utterly authentic human beings. As a mystery, An Instance of the Fingerpost is entertainment of the most intelligent sort; as a novel of ideas, it proves equally satisfying

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I absolutely loved this book and it is one of my all time favourites. It is intelligently written, and captures the essence of the times. The ending was surprising but made absolute sense. I cannot recommend this one more!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In addition to the wonderful and gruesome descriptions of 16th century medicine I am fascinated by the way the characters discuss the law as "having little to do with reason". The struggle betwen the importance of evidence vs the importance of motive. The newness of the jury system and the spectacle of trial. Very antiquated and yet striking a very contemporary cord. Section 2 is beginning to to seemlessly interdigitated into the first section and my mind is beginning to whirl with "who done it" and why? I guess section three, when I get there, will spin me in a completely different direction. Pears is clearly a gifted author.:018: :018: :011: I may have to read more of him in the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh Curses! Y'all are getting me way too interested in this book! grrrrr! :018:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awww I still say you'll never know what you missed. :018:

It is true....never say never. :018:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just comming in to the end of this book and I'l be reviewing soon. I must say the sections of the book are so ingeniously woven together. One thing tho.... I am beginning to forget who is who and who is on who's side. Tha cast of characters is HUGE. Nevertheless my review will no doubt be favorable and this WILL be a recommended read.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will, but I've got at least 3, well maybe 2 before I do. :roll:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right now I am almost finished My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain, and have started Dreams of My Russian Summers by Andrei Makine. The latter was compared to Nabokov, but although there is some base for that, I don't think it is that strong a resemblance. I do like his writing. It's crisper than Nabokov, but descriptive all the same. I might, or should finish The Lover by Marguarite Duras, I've had it half finished for months now. But I saw the film, so got side tracked.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You have such great taste in books. It's inspiring. I've got The Satanic Versus up next and then a nother Saramago (your favorite) I'd like to tackle my next Nabokov this summer. Any suggestions? And will you be there to discuss it with me?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just say where and when! :roll:

 

You know I'd looked at Fingerpost before, but couldn't make up my mind, but when you liked it so much I was convinced. So thanks. ;)

 

As to which Nabokov, have you read any others yet?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×