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4.1 out of 5 stars41
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 4 August 2003
To start with I found this book fairly heavy-going and because of this uninvolving. I felt that Pears had been given a brief to write an "intellectual" book and therefore added complicated paragraphs that ditracted from the underlying stories.
Eventually Pears focuses on the stories - and then the book becomes a delight and a pleasure to read. The same themes develop in each of the three parallel stories and all of the stories are fascinating.
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on 28 January 2015
I first read this when it came out, and it set me off reading in a wide circuit of the history of Late Antiquity - starting with Peter Brown's 'The World of Late Antiquity', which appears to be the 'Ur' book on the subject. Over and above that, 'The Dream of Scipio' tell three stories of people doing awful things for very cogent reasons. Ethics and Honour. A delight.
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In this remarkable and hugely conceived novel of ideas, Pears gives us three intense, emotionally gripping stories set in Provence during the fifth, fourteenth, and 20th centuries. In each of these, a sensitive and thoughtful man of letters faces not only a crisis of belief, but also of action, as outside forces threaten to destroy civilization as he knows it. As each man fights to save the values he finds important, Pears explores the ethical underpinnings of western thought and history, those ideas first proffered by Plato which continue to influence men and governments two thousand years later.
A mysterious 5th century manuscript by Manlius Hippomanes connects the parallel plots and eras: the waning days of the Roman Empire, as the barbarian hordes attack Gaul's borders and Manlius Hippomanes writes The Dream of Scipio; the 14th century in Avignon, when poet Olivier de Noyen discovers some of Manlius's writing and deals with papal intrigue, the Hundred Years War, and the Black Death; and the Vichy government in France during World War II, when Julien Barneuve, a scholar who has traced the Manlius manuscript, joins the Vichy government in an effort to "civilize" the German occupiers and prevent deportation of the Jews.
This is not a beach book--its excitement is far more thoughtful than sensational. Pears' characters are real, flawed people living and loving in times of crisis and experiencing conflicts with parents, teachers, friends, and mentors. These conflicts clearly parallel those in the wider world of their political alliances and governments, and ultimately affect their attitudes toward humankind in general. Beautiful love stories, which bring warmth to the narrative, are portrayed with the delicacy such fragile relationships deserve and the strength which allows them to endure. As we, too, face uncertain times and threats to our own civilization, Pears offers a reflective and thought-provoking framework for contemplating our own future. Mary Whipple
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on 11 March 2015
For those who like writers with a masterly command of English, historical settings, and books of ideas, Iain Pears is one of the best authors out there today. I enjoyed An Instance of the Fingerpost, but this was on a different level, interweaving three gripping stories from very different time periods. Set in the region around Avignon, each of the various protagonists face forces that threaten to destroy their civilisation and values. Remarkably, Pears weaves these different stories together without the use of chapters: at first this can seem frustrating but one realises that he is asking us to explore parallels between the stories, and how the ideas that each figure encounters resonate down the ages.

I found myself ever more involved in the interlinked stories and would highly recommend to all with an interest in history, philosophy, ideas and great storytelling.
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VINE VOICEon 5 August 2011
This was ultimately a very moving story but it took me quite a while to get fully into it - nearly half way through in fact. The idea of the three interlinked time periods is a fascinating one, but the changes between each were often a bit too frequent for me to feel immersed in the story initially, even though I am very interested in all the periods themselves. When I started to feel properly engaged just under half way through, it took off, especially as the similarities between the crisis points in history emerged, the sense of civilisation crumbling around the protagonists and the same scapegoats, the Jews, often being blamed. The fates of the various characters were moving, especially Olivier in the Medieval timeline and Julien and Julia in the WWII one. A worthwhile read then, for which a little effort repays.
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on 10 March 2015
I enjoyed this overall,some parts I found could have been done just as effectively with half the words but then again,maybe it would have lost some of its character if it had been done that way.overall I think it was cleverly done,the way it covered such a vast length of time,all running together,slightly confusing at first but once I got into the gist of it was fine and enjoyable read.
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on 11 March 2013
Generally I don't like novels which operate on multiple time frames. Pears has made a good stab at this though it still irritates me to have to jump every few pages. His knowledge and research of the subjects is impressive and it is handled with intelligence.
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on 16 January 2016
While it's not as phenomenal as An Inatance of the Fingerpost, I didn't expect it to be. It is still a fantastic read! I did find it confusing at times with how quickly he changed from one character to the next but I enjoyed the challenge, for the most part.
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on 19 August 2010
The dream of Scipio is highly recommended for anyone interested in drama and suspense, history, philosophy, and who enjoy the beautiful language English can be. Iain Pears has become one of my favourite authors.
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on 22 March 2014
I am reading the book at this moment, i like his unique style of writing and find the book enjoyable. It is difficult to describe to others you must read it for yourself to understand what i am saying.
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