May 12, 2009

Stone's Fall Iain Pears

Iain Pears’ novel Stone’s Fall is incredibly complex. It is told from the perspective of three narrators, during three time periods, and in three separate settings. It also travels backwards through time. Pears’ pieced together a historical mystery that simply broaches espionage, international finance, and military arms production. And this novel also has the heft of a decent sized phone book. Such an ambitious undertaking in the hands of a lesser author could have easily been confusing or tedious, but Stone’s Fall is a masterwork of literary achievement.

The mysteries of the story are artfully unfolded in an intricate plotline. The story opens in London in 1953 where a retired reporter, Matthew Braddock recalls London in 1909 during the time he was hired to investigate the whereabouts of an heir to John Stone, a major player in international finance and military arms production. The more he probes into the life of John Stone the more questions he has. The next segment of the book opens in Paris 1890, and told by the up and coming British spy Henry Cort. Through Henry we get more insight into the life of John Stone, as we learn of the rise of his wife and the power he commanded in global finance. Finally we are treated to the perspective of Mr. Stone in Venice 1867, as we discover the origins of his business and finally all the loose ends are tied together to the delight of the reader.

The characters are slowly rendered, layer by layer, choice by choice. They come and go in each time period revealing more about themselves and the relationships they share with each other. Pears’ constantly reinvents his subjects, so that their motivations only become clear after all sides of the story are told. By the end, we are left with wholly flawed but intensely vibrant people.

Stone’s Fall is easily one of my favorite books of the year. Pears’ gives us a novel that thrills a patient reader—it pays off better than expected. Be resigned to devote your entire weekend to devouring this book. However if you enjoy a big thick novel, I couldn’t recommend a better choice.


  1. A little outside my usual, but it sounds intriguing enough to put on my list!

  2. I didn't think it would hold my interest---PLEASANTLY surprised.


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