The Dream of Scipio Hardcover – 2002
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unmarked, as new, 1st ed.
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Top Customer Reviews
A mysterious 5th century manuscript by Manlius Hippomanes connects the parallel plots and eras: the waning days of the Roman Empire, as the barbarian hordes attack Gaul's borders and Manlius Hippomanes writes The Dream of Scipio; the 14th century in Avignon, when poet Olivier de Noyen discovers some of Manlius's writing and deals with papal intrigue, the Hundred Years War, and the Black Death; and the Vichy government in France during World War II, when Julien Barneuve, a scholar who has traced the Manlius manuscript, joins the Vichy government in an effort to "civilize" the German occupiers and prevent deportation of the Jews.
This is not a beach book--its excitement is far more thoughtful than sensational. Pears' characters are real, flawed people living and loving in times of crisis and experiencing conflicts with parents, teachers, friends, and mentors. These conflicts clearly parallel those in the wider world of their political alliances and governments, and ultimately affect their attitudes toward humankind in general. Beautiful love stories, which bring warmth to the narrative, are portrayed with the delicacy such fragile relationships deserve and the strength which allows them to endure. As we, too, face uncertain times and threats to our own civilization, Pears offers a reflective and thought-provoking framework for contemplating our own future.
The story contains many references to philosophy and religion, comparing characteristics among the three time periods and the people who lived through each. A key idea of the book is the question of personal choice during times of trouble. Does one hold fast to absolute principles, risking death and destruction, or is it better to go along with the opposition in hopes of ameliorating its brutality?
In the three cases described in the novel, the opposition is represented by the barbarians who sacked Rome, the oppressive Church of the Dark Ages and the invading Germans of 1942. In the first two instances, the heroes allow themselves to be co-opted by a barbarian king and the Church hierarchy, with mixed results. In the final instance, the hero teeters on the brink of choice, finally deciding to stick with his principles, even though in doing so he, his friends and his way of life are certain to be destroyed.
The book is exceptionally thought-provoking. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I read, going back and re-reading sections, and pondering what I might do in a similar situation. A bonus was that I learned a good deal about the Greek philosophers and about what life was like during times and in places that I don't know much about. This is a very good read that will challenge most readers and, in return, pay off in ways that the usual page-turners do not.
From Spike Lee to the Greek tragedians- it is about moral action- and if you are one of those who assume it is easier in these times or that we have advanced stop reading and turn on the TV. This book has wit and yet it requires some effort. If the reader dares, it is extraordinarily worthwhile.
Most recent customer reviews
Great style, great presentation! Need your whole attention! Can't put it down book?Published 20 months ago by Kathleen Horvathexcellent value for the $$
While this book has flashes of excellent writing, it fails to engage the reader in a sustained way. The frequent changes of setting are often so abrupt that the story is hard to... Read morePublished on Sept. 17 2013 by Avid Reader
The book reaches such a highlight of beauty and wisdom that no words can give it justice.Published on May 10 2004
I rarely write reviews, although I read constantly. But I need to write a review of The Dream of Scipio. This book is one of the finest I've ever read. It is a work of art. Read morePublished on Feb. 14 2004 by Amazon Customer
Iain Pears uses a single region (Provence, around Avignon) and a common thread (a manuscript on philosophy)to illustrate three different moments in Western civlization and the... Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2004 by Guillermo Maynez
Apparantly inspired by a short story of Borges (on the rewriting of Don Quixote), we view the quest of four individuals living centuries apart, albiet each in a time of social and... Read morePublished on Dec 29 2003 by Phillip I. Good
"Scipio" is one of the best novels I've read in years, and I read a lot! Be forewarned by the few negative reviews here on Amazon--to fully appreciate this book you... Read morePublished on Dec 28 2003 by J. Marren
The central conflict at the heart of "The Dream of Scipio" is whether a civilisation should be defended with force, or whether it can absorb its enemies and convert them to its... Read morePublished on Dec 23 2003 by Paul Donovan
The central conflict at the heart of "The Dream of Scipio" is whether a civilisation should be defended with force, or whether it can absorb its enemies and convert them to its... Read morePublished on Dec 22 2003 by Paul Donovan