Saturday, August 28, 2010

Stone's Fall


There have been so many occasions that I have seen or heard a novel described as Dickensian. Do you want to know how often that turns out to be true? Almost nev-ah. Less than almost never even. That's very disappointing. So sad. Charles Dickens is my favorite, favorite, favorite author. I heart all the Victorians but Charles is my desert island author. I try to be a big girl about it and move on but then --cue the angelic choir-- goodness gets its reward and suddenly there it is the truly Dickensian novel in your lap. It's Stone's Fall by Iain Pears.

Stone's Fall is exactly what the title alludes to and then much more. It's the story of John Stone's demise. Stone is a wildly successful financier, arms dealer and economy manipulator who dies in a fall from a London window. Murder? Suicide? Revenge? The story of Stone begins in the 1860's and continues through the early years of the twentieth century. Reading about that time frame alone is worth the price of admission because as The Instance of the Fingerpost proved there is not a better re-creator of place and time in historical fiction that Iain Pears.

The mystery surrounding Stone's death is the heart of the novel but it is by no means the only interesting element here. The complex and intricate plot encompasses countless, fluctuating in their importance characters and moves forward and backward in a Citizen Kane style with the many witnesses to Stone's life telling their stories and offering up their opinions. We get the glorious pleasure of sorting it all out. All of that is supported by Pears commanding ability to not only juggle this all but to keep the story accurate to the time and sublimely entertaining over all 608 pages.

Any Victorian writer would be proud to call Stone's Fall their own. There is wall to wall skulduggery, a serpentine plot fueled by characters that encompass all levels of society, cliffhangers galore and superior writing skills. Read Stone's Fall and wallow in the brilliance.

Happy to be in my Charles Dickens place

P.S. I do prefer this cover from the hardcover edition of Stone's Fall to the paperback. The paperback cover you have seen a thousand times and wasn't new when it was new. The hardcover conveys some of the basics of the story in a subtle and fresh way. And. I love the off kilter layout of the type.

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