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An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears

An Instance of the Fingerpost (original 1997; edition 2000)

by Iain Pears (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,7891251,652 (3.94)1 / 279
A novel on the way we interpret events to suit our purpose. The protagonists are four people giving evidence in a murder in 17th century England. One blames the crime on too much authority, another on the lack of it. A look at the controversies of the day, from medical experiments to religious freethinking.… (more)
Title:An Instance of the Fingerpost
Authors:Iain Pears (Author)
Info:Riverhead Books (2000), 704 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (1997)

Recently added byprivate library, Arina40, lgj0001, laurak, evertonian
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    Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper (PuddinTame)
    PuddinTame: The Sarah Blundy character in Instance is roughly based on the real life Anne Greene. [Wikipedia] Newes from the Dead is a young adult account of Anne Greene's hanging and revival.
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» See also 279 mentions

English (116)  French (3)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  Russian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (125)
Showing 1-5 of 116 (next | show all)
Endless. Tedious. I abhorred the writing style. It is deliberately annoying. ( )
  breic | Sep 7, 2020 |
Very well put together. The story told from four very distinct perspectives. The last story wraps it all up very neatly. It's set in Oxford in the1660s - it seems very realistic historically, from what little I know. People hold attitudes that sound quite strange to 21st Century ears! The politics and conspiracies around the Restoration seemed very realistic too. ( )
1 vote kukulaj | Jun 19, 2020 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 116 (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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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
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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A novel on the way we interpret events to suit our purpose. The protagonists are four people giving evidence in a murder in 17th century England. One blames the crime on too much authority, another on the lack of it. A look at the controversies of the day, from medical experiments to religious freethinking.

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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)
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