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Stone's Fall: A Novel by Iain Pears
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Stone's Fall: A Novel (edition 2009)

by Iain Pears

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974578,846 (3.8)92
Member:TotallyTea
Title:Stone's Fall: A Novel
Authors:Iain Pears
Info:Spiegel & Grau (2009), Hardcover, 608 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Historical Fiction

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Stone's Fall by Iain Pears

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English (52)  Dutch (4)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (57)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
Highly entertaining and wonderful writing. ( )
  KRoan | Jul 25, 2014 |
This book was not as intricate as A instance of the fingerpost or The dream of Scipio, but much more so than The Portrait. Stone’s fall narrates successive portions of a historical mystery in reverse order: it starts off with a journalist investigating a mysterious suicide in the early 1910s; moves on to an espionage-slash-financial-crisis in a filthy late-19thC Paris; and ends with an invention of military significance in sleepy mid-19thC Venice. Running in the background are two red threads. On the one hand the three parts shed their successive lights on an international diplomatic emergency that largely plays out behind the scenes; and on the other hand there is the reverse biography of John William Stone, an unimaginably wealthy banker and arms dealer, who does not come into clear focus until the final third. Towards the end, Pears’ plotting stretches credulity a bit, but the rest is a fascinating adventure story that has him juggling genres admirably: crime fiction, spy thriller and a Venetian mystery that feels very du-maurier-meets-engineering.

I found the choice of period engaging in that they are a suitably underused background for a setting hardly anyone has written novels about (to my knowledge): a fledgling British secret service and the world of international banking and finance. So that was interesting. The charm of these periods and locales lies in that they are emphatically not used as ancillaries to famous historical events (such as a looming WWI, the Parisian Universal Expositions, or the Unification of Italy), but their role as backdrop to an original story -- that the time and place the story is set in are about much more than the Big Events we already know about.

A similar point can be made on a character-level: each part of the general story arc is told as its own separate adventure, and while Pears does indulge a bit in characters and subplots that are not necessarily of direct relevance to the two main storylines, this helps enormously in bringing out the individual time periods as settings independent of whatever larger plan he has on the boil in the background.

The plot itself would be rather unremarkable if told chronologically -- but then Stone’s Fall would have to start resembling a fictional biography, and it is precisely the mystery angle, the sense of unravelling earlier episodes that cast an entirely new light on the later ones, that is the most appealing facet of this book.

In short, I thought this a well-handled, confidently executed historical mystery that uses its unfamiliar settings to great effect. ( )
  Petroglyph | Jul 24, 2014 |
I thought it was well written and I really didn't see the ending coming. ( )
  MsStephie | Jul 12, 2014 |
Goes back in time from 1909 to 1890 to 1867. Of course, the final (earliest) section completes the revelations necessary to understand the actions & motivations of the characters in the first section. That's all fine & good, but I found both the plot & the characters so contrived as to be tedious when not outright ridiculous & exasperating. The second star is due to a certain amount of fascination with the financial/ political machinations that are the central focus of the middle section, which takes place in London/ Paris in 1890 at the moment of an almost collapse of Barings Bank & a barely averted & potentially disastrous run on the Bank of London. The depiction of turn of the last century financial/ industrial capitalism is interesting & is meant (I presume) to resonate with & recall current day financial shenanigans & economic collapse, but isn't in itself enough to lift this novel into the realm of being really worth reading. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
Another gem from Iain Pears, Stones Fall is the author, once again, spinning a complex, intriguing mystery with a wonderful style that is as awesome as taking in a majestic painting at a gallery. The author is a master of creating literary masterpieces. This author challenges me while completely entertaining me. I learn a great deal from each of his books. Not just the facts of the story and the location, history, etc, but in how to structure a story and tell it with unmatched style. ( )
  pife43 | Jan 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
“Stone’s Fall,” ... gives the reader the expected more-than-500 pages and also what is not expected at all: a female character who might have stepped out of Balzac, along with a view of the belle époque that is neither anachronistic nor censorious. .... In the last third, Pears finds himself somewhat in the situation of the clumsy home improver who, deciding to decorate his front room, finds he has painted himself into a corner.
 
This sprawling, unconventional, occasionally dazzling novel ends with an unconvincing and unnecessary denouement which serves only to undermine the foundations of the elaborate edifice he has worked so painstakingly to create.
added by geoffmiles | editGuardian, Clare Clark (May 9, 2009)
 
The assurance and invention with which this novel is written are alike remarkable. Pears manages his complicated structure with a confidence and dexterity possible only to a master of the craft of fiction. ... Better, more profound novels may be published this year, but I shall be surprised if there is one that offers more complete enjoyment.
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain Pearsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Relph, LiamCover designersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stevens, LucindaAuthor Photographsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my mother
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Paris, March 1953
The Church of St.-Germain des Prés, at the start of what was supposed to be spring, was a miserable place, made worse by the drabness of a city still in a state of shock, worse still by the little coffin in front of the altar which was my reason for being there, worse again by the aches and pains of my body as I kneeled.
Quotations
'Conscious of my failings in so many matters, and wishing to make amends for past ills, I direct that the sum of £250,000 be left to my child, whom I have never previously acknowledged.'
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385522843, Hardcover)

A return to the form that launched Iain Pears onto bestseller lists around the world: a vast historical mystery, marvelous in its ambition and ingenius in its complexity.

In his most dazzling novel since the groundbreaking New York Times bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears tells the story of John Stone, financier and arms dealer, a man so wealthy that in the years before World War One he was able to manipulate markets, industries, and indeed entire countries and continents.

A panoramic novel with a riveting mystery at its heart, Stone’s Fall is a quest to discover how and why John Stone dies, falling out of a window at his London home.

Chronologically, it moves backwards–from London in 1909 to Paris in 1890, and finally to Venice in 1867– and in the process the quest to uncover the truth plays out against the backdrop of the evolution of high-stakes international finance, Europe’s first great age of espionage, and the start of the twentieth century’s arms race.

Like Fingerpost, Stone’s Fall is an intricately plotted and richly satisfying puzzle–an erudite work of history and fiction that feels utterly true and oddly timely–and marks the triumphant return of one of the world’s great storytellers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:54 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In this dazzling historical mystery, John Stone, financier and arms dealer, dies falling out of a window at his London home. The quest to uncover the truth behind his death plays out against the backdrop of high-stakes international finance, Europe's first great age of espionage, and the start of the twentieth century's arms race.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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