This is an amazing novel and I really enjoyed reading it. It’s a mystery story set mostly in Oxford in the 1660s. The central event is the sudden and violent death of a university fellow and the trial and execution of the young woman who is accused of his murder. But Pears weaves a very intricate story around this which encompasses the aftermath of the Civil War and the politics of the Restoration, European politics, theology, the beginnings of the Enlightenment, early Chemistry and Physiology, the position of women, the subjective nature of an individual’s knowledge, love, hate, jealousy, cruetly, kindness, loyalty and betrayal. With revelations on almost every page, this book quickly becomes unputdownable. Which is good, because at 700 dense pages, you want to want to read it.
The novel is in four parts, each presented as a separate subjective account of what happened. As the book progresses the reader learns to take nobody’s viewpoint for granted. Very often they are proven not to have understood the significance of something or are clearly presenting their evidence through the prism of their own prejudices and passions.
Most of the characters are historical, which adds to the fun. Not many of them are portrayed sympathetically. But oh, they are all very human.
Laughs 6/10 (plenty of sardonic humour, not many actual jokes)
Read again? Yes
Week 4, and now for something completely different….. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner.
Hoping it’s an easy, quick read as I need to catch up with myself.