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An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
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An Instance of the Fingerpost (1997)

by Iain Pears

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,4301231,611 (3.94)1 / 255
  1. 200
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    The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney (cbl_tn)
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    Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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    Restoration by Rose Tremain (cf66)
    cf66: Se ocupan del mismo período historico
  10. 01
    Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson (ehines)
    ehines: Both interesting contemporary books set amidst the scientific enlightenment, Pears is a bit more historical where Stephenson is more flashily contemporary, but fans of one certainly should look at the other.
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English (113)  French (3)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  Russian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (122)
Showing 1-5 of 113 (next | show all)
I liked nearly everything about this book - great plot, clever organization, four sometimes unreliable narrators (although not always for the reasons you're led to expect), pitch-perfect evocation of mid 17th century Oxford, and a great ending. My only complaint is that the pacing was too slow. If everything else about it wasn't so good I probably wouldn't have finished it. I had to get nearly to the end of the book to appreciate how good it was and it keeps getting better the more I think about it. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
I loved this book!! ( )
  Kendra_Gale | Jan 31, 2019 |
Complex, poignant, impressively erudite, fascinating and heart-breaking. To call this a historical mystery is by far inadequate. It is more like the apotheosis of the historical mystery.

The same events are recounted four ways by four different narrators. Which, if any, is the "reliable" narrator?

Did I mention the theological implications? A great book. ( )
  JackMassa | Jan 24, 2019 |
Immersed in the history, the history of medicine, life in the times, the politics, the philosophy, the intrigue. And then, near the end, the stupid plot twist involving Sarah. Nope. All that reading time wasted. ( )
  countrylife | Dec 11, 2018 |
Long and convoluted, this book held my attention, but just barely.
The plot, involving betrayal, jealousy, and greed,was a selling point. Also, I thought the changing narrative voices were extremely-done. Well-researched and authentic. ( )
  bohemima | Aug 5, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 113 (next | show all)
If you liked Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose," you should run to buy Iain Pears' lavishly erudite historical mystery "An Instance of the Fingerpost."... If Eco's book was a sly demonstration of semiotics, the study of signs, Pear's is an exercise in theories of knowledge. Theological disputation, cryptography, religious dissent, medical experiments, moral philosophy, even the Turkish-Venetian war over Crete are all dealt with in what sometimes seems an entertaining encyclopedia of the second half of the 17th century.... When the denouement comes, it is with a new and final twist, one whose quality of surprise is the final proof of this talented author's almost infinite capacity to replace one understanding of things with another.
 
Successful literary thrillers in the mold of Umberto Eco's ''Name of the Rose'' are the stuff of publishers' dreams, and in Pears's novel they may have found a near-perfect example of the genre. It is literary -- if that means intelligent and well written -- and for the reader who likes to be teased, who likes his plots as baroque and ingenious as possible, ''An Instance of the Fingerpost'' will not disappoint.... [T]wo, perhaps three, of the four narrators are men hard to like or care about. It was not until the final 150 pages that I found myself being moved. The feel of this last section is bolder, more imaginative, mysterious even, as though the novel had suddenly transcended itself and broken free of the trappings of the genre.
 
...a novel about deception and self-deception, about the scientific method and Jesuitical chicanery, above all about political expedience and religious transcendence. Every sentence in the book is as solid as brick -- and as treacherous as quicksand.... [Y]ou could reread the novel just to savor the subtle tricks of omission and misdirection.... Iain Pears has written an impressively original and audaciously imaginative intellectual thriller. Don't miss it.
 
Rashomon meets The Name of the Rose in a triumphant triple-decker that knocks every speck of dust from the historical mystery.
added by Muscogulus | editKirkus Reviews (Dec 17, 1997)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pears, Iainprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ambrosini, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Badescu, AdrianaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Biličić, DamirTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Čhaturongkhawāni… Thanatwō̜nTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Engen, BodilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Evans, Alansecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gračanin, MartinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gurovoj, I.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jakovlev, BožicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johansen, KnutTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Khup, NālanthāTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kim, Sŏk-hŭiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindenburg, MiekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundborg, GunillaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mader, FriedrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Máximo, Maria AliceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martoccia, MaríaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michael, PaulNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petecka-Jurek, KatarzynaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Petersen, Arne HerløvTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Radevic-Stojiljkovic… BranislavaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sabljak, AnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sarotte, Georges-MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tutino, AlfredoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verduin, VictorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ṿais, BoʻazTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walter, EdithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Historia vero testis temporum, lux veritatis, vita memoriae, magistra vitae.

(History is the witness of the times, the light of truth, the life of memory, the mistress of life.)
             Cicero, De Oratore
A Question of Precedence

There are idols which we call Idols of the Market. For Men associate by Discourse, and a false and improper Imposition of Words strangely possesses the Understanding, for Words absolutely force the Understanding, and put all Things into Confusion.
— Francis Bacon,
Novum Organum Scientarum, Section II,
Aphorism VI
An Instance of the Fingerpost

When in a Search of any Nature the Understanding stands suspended, then instances of the Fingerpost shew the true and inviolable Way in which the Question is to be decided. These Instances afford great Light, so that the Course of the Investigation will sometimes be terminated by them. Sometimes, indeed, these Instances are found amongst that Evidence already set down.>— Francis Bacon,
Novum Organum Scientarum, Section XXXVI,
Aphorism XXI
Dedication
To Ruth
First words
Marco da Cola, gentleman of Venice, respectfully presents his greetings. I wish to recount the journey which I made to England in the year 1663, the events which I witnessed and the people I met, these being, I hope, of some interest to those concerned with curiosity. Equally I intend my account to expose the lies told by those whom I once numbered, wrongly, amongst my friends.
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Book description
We are in England in the 1660s. Charles II has been restored to the throne following years of civil war and Oliver Cromwell's short-lived republic. Oxford is the intellectual seat of the country, a place of great scientific, religious, and political ferment. A fellow of New College is found dead in suspicious circumstances. A young woman is accused of his murder. We hear the story of the death from four witnesses; an Italian physician intent on claiming credit for the invention of blood transfusion; the son of an alleged Royalist traitor; a master cryptographer who has worked for both Cromwell and the king; and a renowned Oxford antiquarian. Each tells his own version of what happened. Only one reveals the extraordinary truth. (1-57322-082-5)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0425167720, Mass Market Paperback)

An Instance of the Fingerpost is that rarest of all possible literary beasts--a mystery powered as much by ideas as by suspects, autopsies, and smoking guns. Hefty, intricately plotted, and intellectually ambitious, Fingerpost has drawn the inevitable comparisons to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and, for once, the comparison is apt.

The year is 1663, and the setting is Oxford, England, during the height of Restoration political intrigue. When Dr. Robert Grove is found dead in his Oxford room, hands clenched and face frozen in a rictus of pain, all the signs point to poison. Rashomon-like, the narrative circles around Grove's murder as four different characters give their version of events: Marco da Cola, a visiting Italian physician--or so he would like the reader to believe; Jack Prestcott, the son of a traitor who fled the country to avoid execution; Dr. John Wallis, a mathematician and cryptographer with a predilection for conspiracy theories; and Anthony Wood, a mild-mannered Oxford antiquarian whose tale proves to be the book's "instance of the fingerpost." (The quote comes from the philosopher Bacon, who, while asserting that all evidence is ultimately fallible, allows for "one instance of a fingerpost that points in one direction only, and allows of no other possibility.")

Like The Name of the Rose, this is one whodunit in which the principal mystery is the nature of truth itself. Along the way, Pears displays a keen eye for period details as diverse as the early days of medicine, the convoluted politics of the English Civil War, and the newfangled fashion for wigs. Yet Pears never loses sight of his characters, who manage to be both utterly authentic denizens of the 17th century and utterly authentic human beings. As a mystery, An Instance of the Fingerpost is entertainment of the most intelligent sort; as a novel of ideas, it proves equally satisfying.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:02 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When a fellow of New College in seventeenth-century Oxford is found dead and a young woman is accused of his murder, four witnesses, each with his own agenda, tell what they saw, but only one speaks the truth.

» see all 4 descriptions

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