Iain Pears, An Instance Of The Fingerpost

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Iain Pears, An Instance Of The Fingerpost

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Ago 16, 2006, 5:45 am

If you haven't read An Instance of the Fingerpost yet, you're missing out :) Give it a try: the events take place in a beautifully-realized seventeenth-century Oxford, and the book is comprised of four different eyewitness accounts, each narrator with their own agenda. Which of the narrators can you trust? What's really going on? I loved it, and even my husband (who doesn't normally read novels) opened it to while away a boring train journey and ended up hooked.

Ago 16, 2006, 8:45 pm

I read this a year or so ago and enjoyed it too. The characters and setting are so vivid, and the plot really draws you in. I wasn't sure what to make of the ending, though, since it seemed a bit out of place.

Have you read his The Dream of Scipio? It's not as complex as An Instance of the Fingerpost, but I thought it was beautifully written.

Ago 17, 2006, 9:49 am

I thoroughly enjoyed this book - the plot was great and I thought it provided a wonderful example of the unreliable narrator. I think it's one I shall revisit at some point, because I enjoyed it so much.

Ago 19, 2006, 9:11 am

I quite liked the ending, it seemed appropriate considering the effect the heroine has had on so many :) I have The Dream of Scipio in my library but haven't read it yet, will let you know what I think when I do!

Ago 28, 2006, 12:40 pm

I could NOT finish this book. I tried really hard. I thought the medical history in the book was interesting. But the book overall- just not my cup of tea. It was a DNF for me, unfortunately. But I have Dream of Scipio on my TBR here, anyway.

Set 26, 2006, 12:25 am

Instance of the Fingerpost and The Dream of Scipio are tough works, but worth effort. If you like Iain Pears, I'd suggest that you try his Art History Mysteries:

The Bernini Bust
Death and Restoration
The Immaculate Deception
The Titian Committee
The Last Judgement
The Raphael Affair
Giotto's Hand

His "Nick and Nora" protagonists are Jonathn Argyll, bumbling English Art Historian, and ultra slick Flavia di Stefano, an Agent of the Italian National Art Squad.

While none of the books is an "historical mystery", you'll get a dose of history and art education with usually a good read.

BTW: Would The Thin Man count as a historical mystery today? While a contemporary work, it is pre WWII...

Even if it doesn't, if you only seen the movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy - which are excellent! - the book is great too...

Set 26, 2006, 10:44 am

I couldn't finish it either. Pacing dragged so much that I completely lost interest in the characters and the gaps between reads grew so long that I forgot salient points and the whole thing just wouldn't hang together for me anymore. It is still there on the shelf with the bookmark in the place I stopped. Maybe someday...

Set 28, 2006, 3:34 am

I guess I am in the middle of the posts here. :o) I did finish it, but really didnt enjoy it. I thought it was very interesting though reading the different points of view. It is an eye opener to read one version and then the next where the narrator is so disparaging to the first one. I was glad to finish it...but really wouldn't recommend it. Although the fact that I did finish it says a lot, as I dont hesitate to set down a book if I am not into it.

Out 10, 2006, 9:50 pm

Fans of Instance of the Fingerpost may enjoy Andrew Miller's Ingenious Pain. It is not a proper mystery but does have elements of mystery that suffuse a very good historical tale concerning a renowned 18th century surgeon whose success is largely due to his inability to feel or understand pain.

Dez 24, 2006, 4:46 pm

I loved the book too. It was so interesting to see each narrator from the eyes of the other. Although it was a large book it flew by when I was reading.

I also have the Dream of Scipio on my TBR pile.

Dez 26, 2006, 8:43 pm

I read all of the Iain Pears Art History Mystery novels mentioned by mbahawk and love them, but I just couldn't get into Instance of the Fingerpost, though I did try.

Jul 5, 2007, 3:50 pm

I'm glad I'm not alone. Instance of the Fingerpost put me to sleep so I gave up and gave it over to the friends of the library.

Editado: Jan 12, 2008, 7:40 pm

An Instance of the Fingerpost demands more from the reader than most mysteries, including Iain Pears' art history pieces. That's because it's not simply a work of entertainment; both it and The Dream of Scipio are essays on our inability to know what really happened. It's part of the human condition, first, to wish to know our history and, second, to be unable to get it right, no matter how we try. By giving us a series of convinced narrators who contradict one another, Pears subtly invites us to question some of our own assumptions about what is real or certain. Not every reader appreciates such invitations, and many would rather stay home than attend the banquet Mr. Pears throws at the college. The questions are impolite and the food is not easy on the stomach.

I have re-read the book more than once. I've also been accosted by a stranger who saw me with it, and who wanted to tell me how the book had captivated her. I can't remember the last time a book has instantly endeared me to a stranger, but this one did.

My cousin loaned me Fingerpost the first time I read it, and I repaid him with a homemade soundtrack of 17th-century music, including some of the English viol music that Anthony Wood describes with such emotion. Most of us never get a chance to hear it, unfortunately. Fingerpost fans should look up the viol consorts Fretwork and Phantasm, for a start.

Jan 12, 2008, 7:45 pm

I don't know, alarob. I frequently enjoy writing that is deeper and more demanding than entertaining mystery novels. For example, I enjoyed The Moonstone and am now reading A Woman in White and very much enjoying it, and I loved The Egyptologist and enjoyed Angelica, all of which novels were narrated by a series of convincing characters and illustrated how impossible it is to ever really know what actually happened, given that eyewitnesses to the same incident telling what they believe they actually saw usually tell it quite differently one from the other. I think An Instance of the Fingerpost was just written in a ponderous way with characters about whom I just couldn't seem to care. Or, it could have been my mood at the time. If I hear enough plaudits from readers who don't simultaneously imply I am not a discerning and/or educated reader or am one who does not appreciate demanding writing, then I might try again.

Fev 27, 2008, 7:58 pm

I read Instance a while back but actually found it quite interesting. I think if it could have been shorter that it might have been even better. It was one of the first books that I read of that era in English history so it would probably be more interesting to me now.

But I agree that it probably is not for everyone. When a group of friends and I were discussing this book, someone suggested that perhaps one could read the different accounts like different books, maybe even going so far to read something different between each account.