September 30, 2003

The Dream of Scipio

A fine, though perhaps overambitious, historical novel set in three terrible times: the collapse of the Western empire, the Black Death, and Occupied France. Pears's portrayal of the last Roman philosopher as he tries to salvage some fragment of civilization is perhaps the most convincing picture of the Dark Ages I've seen. Pears reaches for an extraordinarily complex structure with all sorts of complex resonances between times. Occasionally, the results seem precious but on the whole it's extraordinarily well done.