Stone's Fall Paperback – 3 Jun 2010
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Stone’s Fall is another novel to add lustre to a career that has had few missteps – and it is a book that shows no signs the author’s skill is waning. Iain Pears’ writing won’t be to everyone’s taste, but isn't that true of anything of quality? This is historical crime of an intelligent order, with a wide, time-spanning canvas that moves from London in the Edwardian era to Paris and Venice.
In 1909, a rich manufacturer of weapons has purloined the concept of the torpedo from another man, one of the reasons for his fabulous wealth. But he falls to his death from a window, and his widow, the Countess Elizabeth, commissions a journalist to investigate her late husband’s life and death – with the mystifying will he left as the fulcrum. As the journalist, Braddock, digs deeper, he uncovers very little -- and fifty year pass before a remarkable revelation comes his way.
A glance at Iain Pears’ earlier novels such as An Instance of the Fingerpost and The Portrait reveals the customary impeccable craftsmanship, on display once again in the new book. With his admirable skill at matching clever plotting with strikingly drawn characters, Pears is clearly a different commodity from his contemporaries (a conclusion also demonstrated by the beguiling The Dream of Scipio, set in Provence at three key points of Western civilisation). What is most encouraging about the critical and (to some degree) the commercial success of Iain Pears’ books is the encouraging signal it sends about readers’ willingness to engage with fiction that demands more than just easy acquiescence. A novel such as Stone’s Fall will not reveal its secrets to you without a certain commitment – which is why the author is something special in a dumbed-down, Big Brother-watching world. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"I cannot remember enjoying a book as much as Stone's Fall" (Malcolm Gladwell Observer)
"The assurance and invention with which the novel is written are alike remarkable. Utterly absorbing and a rare delight" (Alan Massie Scotsman)
"Engrossing and intelligent, it's the best sort of page-turner" (Amber Pearson Daily Mail)
"A juicy mystery with lashings of period detail" (Daily Telegraph)
"The novel is above all a romp, albeit an exceptionally intelligent and entertaining one" (David Robson Sunday Telegraph)
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Top Customer Reviews
The premise is quite simple: Why did John Stone die, falling out of a window at his London home? The story is a complex mystery, beginning in London in 1909 and gradually revealing the truth by going back in time - first to Paris in 1890, and finally to Venice in 1867.
The book is cleverly constructed so that in the first section John Stone has just died and all the information about him is vague and contradictory. In the second section he becomes a character, so we begin to build a better picture of him and in the final section he is the narrator, so we finally find out the truth about his fascinating life.
"I did not want power or wealth for themselves, and did not in the slightest desire fame. But I wanted, on my death, to be able to expire feeling that my existence had made the world a different place."
This is a literary mystery, so the pace is quite slow and at nearly 600 pages it isn't a quick read, but the length was necessary to create the vivid world and fully formed characters. The astonishing twists were reminiscent of Fingersmith and I am sure I will remember this book for a very long time.
The espionage and financial aspects of the book meant that I thought it would appeal to men more than women, but while I think this is probably true, I am a woman and it is my book of the year! I admit that there were a few sections where the financial implications of events went over my head, but I was quickly brought back to the gripping plot by another development.
This book has everything - a multi-layered complex plot, fantastic characters and a compelling mystery.
Highly recommended to lovers of suspenseful literary fiction.
The novel starts in 1953 and then has three separate but intertwining narratives in reverse chronological order - headed London 1909, Paris 1890 and Venice 1867. Each has its own narrator - the first is the most conventional and probably the weakest. The second is fascinating and where Pears really excels himself, the third section gives resolution.
It's an incredibly well plotted novel, I was gripped by the story from the start and the twists and turns are rooted in what we have learnt about the characters rather than being mere plot devices. It is only at the end of the third part that all becomes clear and is resolved with a final twist- if a little too neatly for this reader.
Pears has great fun with the financial and business strands within the novel - which examines the increasing power of finance and capital markets and how `the flow of capital and the generation of profit depends upon confidence. The belief that the word of a London banker is his bond'. He is obviously drawing parallels with our own time and greedy bankers and how disaster can loom when confidence is lost in credit markets. Pears is able to build suspense over these financial machinations, a new type of espionage, a fascinating lady and the fall of an immensely wealthy and quietly powerful magnate - 596 pages flew by.
Though rather different in style to "The Dream of Scipio" (Pears's vastly under-rated masterpiece) this did match its predecessor's feel for history, with three different narratives each stamping their individual authority on the reader's attention. Though a lengthy tome, weighing in at about six hundred small font pages, there is none of the feeling of long-windedness that occasionally burdened "An Instance of the Fingerpost".
"Stone's Fall" was the sixtieth book I have read this year, and I think it is possibly the finest so far (with the possible exception of Jospeh O'Neill's marvellous "Netherland")
Although I understand why this book has been so highly praised, it does not work for me. This is not because many of the characters are not very likeable, and tend to be snobbish, class-conscious and anti-semitic - this is all part of the period covered. One reservation is that the large number of characters paraded before us tend to merge together - it is hard to relate to most of them, and to identify and recall the significant "clues" they may drop. Too much of the tale is reported via these characters, often in implausibly fluent speech. This brings me to the point that, despite their ( I think we are meant to find) very different personalities, the three narrators all use the same "voice": a very articulate, rather cynical, for the most part bloodlessly objective, tone - the author's? And although I think I was meant to be captivated by Stone's wife Elizabeth, I found both her and Louise Cort to be thoroughly unconvincing.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Turgid and boring ,I had to give up on this,it had nothing to say that peaked my interest at all,and it was full tedious waffle.Published 2 months ago by ruth elaine fry
I found it hard to get into this book but it was well worth the effort. I couldn't put it down by the end, a fascinating and complex tale which had me thoroughly hooked.Published 4 months ago by Kindle Customer
One of the few books I have read that, when I've reached the end, I want to go straight back to the beginning and start again. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Alice Maud Mary
Clever format; erudite writer and complex, but satisfying, plotting. A lengthy read but worth the effort. My first experience with this author, but it wont be my last.Published 14 months ago by Gerry 'M'
I guess all reviews are personal, therefor not worth much, this book came highly recomended & I am having trouble finishing it, I am about half way, and truly I could end up not... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Lesley De Haan
This a brilliantly conceived and executed story. I can understand that others might be put off by its length, especially as it is possible to forget key story elements from earlier... Read morePublished 17 months ago by A. Lax
Story that is intriguing and keeps you guessing ,although you can guess the outcome ,a good read , full of characters in a interesting time .Published 19 months ago by Caplock