An Instance of the Fingerpost

Iain Pears is one of my favourite authors, I've read nearly all of his books except, oddly, his first and his latest novel. I loved his Art mystery series, the first books of his I read, and one of which has already been reviewed on here. My favourite is The Dream of Scipio, a literary novel set over 3 different historical periods, with 3 narrative voices. An instance of the fingerpost was well received on its release, and has some similarities with the later Dream of Scipio. It is an historical crime novel, told from the point of view of 4 different witnesses.

I found it a really slow starter - reading further on I realised that this was actually a clever piece of writing, but it did take quite a bit of getting in to. The basic crime was a McGuffin, it was what made the novel work, but at the same time was not actually truly what the novel was about. The historical background, as I would expect from Iain Pears, was immaculate and fascinating. Characterisation improved dramatically as the novel progressed. The central theme of the religious/political machinations of the day was well done and plausible, although I thought the more mystical elements were distracting and added nothing to the novel - in fact I found this element rather off putting.

Surprisingly - as this is probably Pears' best known novel, it's the one that I enjoyed the least, but I still think he's a great writer, and there were certain elements of this that I found truly enjoyable. I just felt that overall the writing was sometimes rather patchy.


Popular Posts