Saturday, April 25, 2009

Book Review: "Stone's Fall"

Iain Pears, of An Instance of the Fingerpost fame, returns to the form which brought him to prominence with Stone's Fall (forthcoming in May from Spiegel & Grau). Like Fingerpost this is a monster of a book (clocking in at 800 pages) but (also like Fingerpost) Pears puts every single page to good use.

Stone's Fall is told in three sections, by three different narrators, in three entirely different chronologically-regressive decades and locations (London in 1909, Paris in 1890, Venice in 1867). It begins with the mysterious death of English financier John Stone, and concludes with him engaging in a certain youthful indiscretion which, nearly forty years later, serves to precipitate his sudden end.

The story told here is a wonderfully complex one of the honeycomb-like intersections between European finance, military industry, and espionage, of the highest and lowest reaches of human society. As the book progresses we learn more and more about its cast of characters, whose actions and feelings we slowly come to understand as Pears reveals their past deeds (and misdeeds). With the first-person narrative style he has deployed so successfully in many of his books, Pears truly makes his reader a part of his tale, and his sense of timing is simply impeccable.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is a masterwork by one of the most ingenious and versatile writers of our time. It kept me up late at night, and was one of those books I almost couldn't help pulling out of my bag to read while walking home from work. It's a brilliant addition to the Pears canon, and I can say with confidence that it will almost certainly be one of my top books for 2009.