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An Instance of the Fingerpost
by Iain Pears

An Instance of the Fingerpost is that rarest of all possible literary beasts--a mystery powered as much by ideas as by suspects, autopsies, and smoking guns. Hefty, intricately plotted, and intellectually ambitious, Fingerpost has drawn the inevitable comparisons to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and, for once, the comparison is apt.

The year is 1663, and the setting is Oxford, England, during the height of Restoration political intrigue. When Dr. Robert Grove is found dead in his Oxford room, hands clenched and face frozen in a rictus of pain, all the signs point to poison. Rashomon-like, the narrative circles around Grove's murder as four different characters give their version of events: Marco da Cola, a visiting Italian physician--or so he would like the reader to believe; Jack Prestcott, the son of a traitor who fled the country to avoid execution; Dr. John Wallis, a mathematician and cryptographer with a predilection for conspiracy theories; and Anthony Wood, a mild-mannered Oxford antiquarian whose tale proves to be the book's "instance of the fingerpost." (The quote comes from the philosopher Bacon, who, while asserting that all evidence is ultimately fallible, allows for "one instance of a fingerpost that points in one direction only, and allows of no other possibility.")

Like The Name of the Rose, this is one whodunit in which the principal mystery is the nature of truth itself. Along the way, Pears displays a keen eye for period details as diverse as the early days of medicine, the convoluted politics of the English Civil War, and the newfangled fashion for wigs. Yet Pears never loses sight of his characters, who manage to be both utterly authentic denizens of the 17th century and utterly authentic human beings. As a mystery, An Instance of the Fingerpost is entertainment of the most intelligent sort; as a novel of ideas, it proves equally satisfying.



Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (1 of 54), Read 59 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, January 23, 2000 08:30 AM If anyone else has finished this yet, I would love to talk about it. I finished it a couple of nights ago and I'm afraid I won't be able to wait for the 15th of Feb. to start talking about it. I know I'll forget so many things I wanted to ask if I do. So, anyone else out there? Let me warn all of you who are reading this and haven't finished. The possibility for plot spoilers abounds. Plot is the big thing -- so be forewarned. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (2 of 54), Read 58 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, January 23, 2000 08:57 AM I'm worried that some of the early notes may disappear before I get to the discussion. What is the time-out length for this topic, Tonya? And, should we lengthen it just for this book? Barb
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (3 of 54), Read 56 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, January 23, 2000 09:02 AM Barb, The first note for Love of a Good Woman is still on the conference and I posted that on Dec. 15. So it's at least one month. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (4 of 54), Read 60 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, January 23, 2000 10:10 AM An interesting book, but excessively long I thought. Reminded me of the remark Lord Gloucester, a notoriously uncultured man, was reputed to have made upon seeing William Gibbon who was on his way to present the latest volume of Decline and Fall to Queen Victoria. "Another fat, thick book, eh, Mr. Gibbon? Scribble, scribble, scribble!" How many identified the play de Cola so disliked, before the killer clue was given in Part IV? I didn't. The Thoroughly Thawed Lawyer Is...
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (5 of 54), Read 62 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, January 23, 2000 10:12 AM Dick, I admit that I did recognize the play. I thought it was funny the way Cola disliked it so much. I too think the book was overlong. Especially the John Wallis part. He was so dislikeable and all his "reasoning" was so unreasonable. It was hard to imagine that he was such a good mathematician. The fourth book, though, fairly flew. I read that section in one sitting. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (6 of 54), Read 64 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Sunday, January 23, 2000 10:22 AM I think this conference is set at about a month, but I'll go ahead and lengthen it to two months, in expectation of a long discussion for this long book.
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (7 of 54), Read 63 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, January 23, 2000 11:38 AM I guess I'd better speed up on this one. I've been dawdling along, reading it along with other books, hoping not to finish before everyone else. I'm only on part II. I'll pick up the speed. Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (8 of 54), Read 61 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, January 23, 2000 12:23 PM Ruth, I thought I was going to read it that way, but I was having trouble sorting out the characters as it was, so I didn't want to bring in whole new books. I just plowed through it. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (9 of 54), Read 49 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Karen Mikhail (kmbookworm@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, January 24, 2000 08:08 AM I was reading this at a good clip and have put it aside to do some other reading so I wouldn't finish too soon. I guess I'll pick it up and finish it quicker. I'm in Part III. Karen
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (10 of 54), Read 48 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, January 24, 2000 11:14 AM Just about finished with part I. The historical and philosophical digressions are interesting, but just that--digressions. It is enjoyable, though, to reflect these learned men of science seem so superstitious and medieval to us today--and sobering to reflect how medieval our science will appear in 300 years! My favorite bit so far comes when Cola is patiently explaining the circulation of the blood to Sarah Blundy, and hopes the concept is not confusing her. "It would only confuse a physician! Any farmer's girl knows that!" David, who thinks he's already figured out the identity of the murderer (if there was a murder!) and is waiting to be humbled.
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (11 of 54), Read 51 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, January 24, 2000 06:49 PM This book kind of reminded me of something James Michener might have written if he was into medieval history (and was a better writer). I had deep suspicions about the basic plot from Part I on, but will say no more since there remains the possibility of spoilers -- no matter how good your guesses, there are some baroque plot turns that will surprise, and possibly, delight you. Or not, as the case may be. The Sun-Burned Lawyer Is...
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (12 of 54), Read 45 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2000 12:52 PM I'm closing in on the end of part III, now, and hopelessly befuddled. (But then, I never figure out a mystery ahead of time.) By now, I've decided that NOBODY is telling the truth. And I'm wishing that we had some kind of Political Geneology chart, like the family charts provided with some novels. I'm having a hard time remembering who's who without a program. Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (13 of 54), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2000 08:30 PM Ruth, I've noticed there is a list of Dramatis Personae in the back, which i've not looked at for fear of spoilers. Just started part III myself--and I'm not going to dare to make any other comments before I finish. David, reminded of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant.
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (14 of 54), Read 41 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2000 10:33 PM I found the list in the back, David. But what I need is a chart showing me who is allied with whom and doing dirty on which. Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (15 of 54), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2000 10:36 PM I must say, it's fun to meet all these guys I know from various science classes. My first intimation was Boyle, fooling around with his vacuum. Boyle? I thought. Vacuum? Aha, the Gas Laws and the infamous P, V, and T! Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (16 of 54), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Thursday, January 27, 2000 09:25 AM You won't find any plot spoilers in the character list in the back, but if you have trouble with cast relationships, it won't help either. As I neared the end of Book 1 feeling lost in the mystery, I went back and started a synopsis for myself, chapter by chapter. Pears would love this, don't you know, I've reduced his 200+ Book 1 into 3 pages! But it has helped me, so that's good. My aim was for Feb. 15, so I'm just starting Book 2 now. I've got very distinct feelings about who dunnit from Book 1, and it will be interesting to see how Book 2 messes that up. Tonya
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (17 of 54), Read 42 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, January 27, 2000 11:14 AM Migosh, Tony, you really did that? Am I impressed! Maybe you shoulda been a lawyer. I'm starting Book III, now. As confused as ever. No, more so. Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (18 of 54), Read 41 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, January 27, 2000 11:22 AM Tonya -- I am about where you are and already thinking that I need to do what you have done -- I am finding myself going back and reading up on this or that to see who said what and know it will get worse. Now -- even though this was an official book -- I want to say that I had decided not to read this one but someone here described this in such a way that I suddenly went looking for it. Standaard Boekhandel came through with a copy ON THE SHELF and just waiting for me. This was Tuesday and here I am two days later winding down part one. I'll be here for whatever discussion whenever it happens. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (19 of 54), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Friday, January 28, 2000 08:30 AM Dottie, I had decided not to read it too, based on the length. I looked at it many, many times in bookstores before it showed up on our list, but I have a predisposition against gigantic books. But, like you, I folded for this discussion. Since we seem to be at the end of Book 1, my big incidental question is why did Mrs. Blundy die? Was it the injury and old age, or what happens when an incompatible blood type is transfused? Is it always a fact that a child's blood can safely be transfused into a parent? Tonya, shaky on medical knowledge.
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (20 of 54), Read 45 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Friday, January 28, 2000 09:09 AM Our medical professionals can give us chapter and verse on this, but it sounded to me like the compound (right term?) fracture of the leg had caused serious blood loss and had become infected; Mrs. Blunt was undoubtedly a goner at that point, given the medicine of the day, but the initial transfusion gave her a major boost that was only temporary. The second transfusion, of the wrong blood type, killed her outright. I suspect blood type compatibility between parent and child would be subject to the same genetic lottery as eye and hair color and tongue curling. The Constructively Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (21 of 54), Read 49 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Friday, January 28, 2000 10:14 AM Tonya, I expect Dick is right. I think that Sarah and her mother had compatible blood types purely by accident. Then when Cola transfused his own blood into her, it was blue lips time. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (22 of 54), Read 50 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, January 28, 2000 11:34 AM Tonya: A quick search of the Web indicates that transfusing the wrong blood group causes severe damage to red blood cells due to some sort of incompatibility that was expressed in eight-syllable words I couldn't understand. At any rate, the red blood cells rupture, resulting in jaundice, kidney failure, and eventually death. As for compatibility between parents and children, it doesn't always exist. Here are the possibilities (first column is parents, second children): OO O AO A BO B AB AB AA A BB B So, it looks like there's a 2/3 chance that a child's blood is compatible with one of the parents, since, eight out of the twelve possibilities match. David
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (23 of 54), Read 52 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, January 28, 2000 12:13 PM Finished this up last night. Found the Rashoman-like structure intriguing. Enjoyed meeting all those guys I learned about in science classes. Got totally lost in the political jungle. And concluded this was a hell of a lot of reading for a mystery novel. Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (24 of 54), Read 52 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, January 28, 2000 12:25 PM Well -- but then we also have to throw in negative and positive factors -- any of these things alone or in combination could have been cause contributors to Mrs. Blundy's death I would think. Just that fracture and the fact that she had manhandled it back into place so crudely would probably indicate blood poisoning/infection that would have been way out in front of the small gains which would have resulted from her treatment. I am racing through part two for some reason. I hope I don't regret having sped up though as I am thinking as I go that this section seems to be of key importance -- then again -- maybe I will find out I am wrong once I move on. Either way -- I am glad I caved in on this book. Whew -- am really enjoying this and look forward to the discussion with great anticipation! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (25 of 54), Read 41 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, January 30, 2000 07:43 AM Got through it. I wonder--is this really a mystery novel, or more historical fiction with a little mystery (as well as a bunch of other stuff) thrown in? And does the mixture "work"? It seemed as though the author tried not to let any of his research go to waste, whether it was part of the story or not. David
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (26 of 54), Read 42 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, January 30, 2000 07:53 AM I wouldn't categorize it as pure mystery. For one thing, are you really sure you know what reallyhappened? Once people are finished, that's something I would like to discuss. I enjoyed all the historical detail, but I just did not like John Wallis and his section could have been much shorter to my mind. The fourth section flew by -- I read it all in one day. I was quite immersed in the time. I suppose you could get that same effect with fewer details. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (27 of 54), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, January 30, 2000 09:51 AM John Wallis wasn't a fun character; a person with a not-so-borderline personality disorder. I agree the effect of the entire novel is cluttered: facts, characters, plot-lines all packed together in a colorful but confusing jumble. I also thought the author's decision to actualize the Montanist heresy in Book IV a very strange decision. It came perilously close to a deux ex machina plot device. I still think of this book as The Winds of War -- 1663. The Re-Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (28 of 54), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Felix Miller (felix3rd@cdc.net) Date: Sunday, January 30, 2000 12:17 PM I am trudging through the Wallis segment now, and am glad to hear there is a better section ahead. I have enjoyed this book a great deal, partly because of the time in which it is set. 16th and 17th century England has always fascinated me, from Thomas More to Daniel Defoe, with Shakespeare and a few others in between. So far, the structure reminds me of a movie, not a book. Specifically, RASHOMON, one of Kurasowa's really great movies. A rape/murder is seen from the points of view of the participants, including the deceased. The various narrators in this book certainly see events in radically different ways. I should be through by tonight-I was up past midnight last night, much against my usual inclination. Regards from the valley, Felix Miller No matter how cynical I get, I can't keep up.-Lily Tomlin
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (29 of 54), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, January 30, 2000 12:20 PM I think the idea of a hybrid historical novel/mystery novel could work, but I'm not sure Pears pulled it off. Didn't work for me, anyway. I think I'd have put this one aside if I hadn't been wanting to take part in this discussion. Altogether too much of a muchness. Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (30 of 54), Read 28 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, February 03, 2000 08:33 PM I finished the book today and enjoyed every bit of it. I didn't rush at all. I read about 20 pages a day and often went back to look things up. I liked the mystery, the history and the satire of the novel. When are we beginning the actual discussion? I find the religious aspect to be fascinating. Jane
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (31 of 54), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, February 03, 2000 10:47 PM Jane -- I finished this up on Tuesday but have been too distracted with other stuff to get my thoughts together on it and post -- also didn't want to give anything away and if I started talking that could happen :-) -- I thoroughly enjoyed this one, also. I read it quickly -- one week exactly -- I think this one was for me what gail deems a life interrupter because I couldn't stay away from it! I was well aware that the intrigue of the religious and the political isn't unique to modern times but this book truly is eye-opening in that regard. Am anxious to get into the discussion. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (32 of 54), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Friday, February 04, 2000 07:57 AM Jane, It's fine to talk about this any time. I warned people there might be spoilers, but it would be a good idea to announce the fact boldly anyway. Since several people have finished I have a question: SPOILER!!! Who do you think really killed old what'shisname? During the Prescott section, he said his friend (god, I'm forgetting everyone's name) did it, then Anthony Wood said he did it, but only thought it would make him sick. I think what happened is that what'shisname got three doses. One he gave himself as a curative, one Prescott's friend gave him, and then Wood dumped the rest in. The reason I think this is because when Wood went to see him, he was in some distress already. Does this make sense to you? Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (33 of 54), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, February 04, 2000 10:11 AM SPOILER! AS THEY SAY . .. ... .... ..... ...... ...... ....... ........ ......... .......... Sherry, I'd vote in favor of Wood being the actual agent of the murder of Grove. Prestcott never saw Thomas Ken committing the crime; he just met him coming back from Grove's with a guilty look on his face and assumed the worst. (In fact, assumptions based on insufficient evidence abound throughout.) After part 1 I had fingered Ken myself, having also looked up Romans 8:13 as Prestcott did--which may say something about my state of mind. I'd pose a couple of questions about Sarah Blundy. First, why did she confess? According to Wallis, she was protecting Cola; according to Wood, she was protecting him. Or was it simply part of a Messianic complex to be the innocent assuming the punishment of the guilty? Second, the "resurrection" of Sarah Blundy didn't surprise me at all. When I recalled Lower boasting to Cola how he could pinpoint the moment of death in a hanging, I got a nagging suspicion that he was pulling a fast one to keep her alive for some reason. But then, after reading part IV, I'm suddenly wondering if she actually did die, and the whole resurrection was just a wishful hallucination of Wood's part. One more: whose murder is central to the story--Professor Grove's, or Sarah Blundy's? David
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (34 of 54), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Friday, February 04, 2000 10:50 AM S P O I L E R S continued I thought Ken actually confessed to Prescott. But then when we read Prescott's account, according to him he is living in a mansion, and according to everyone else he is in the boobyhatch. So can you believe anything at all of what he says? I have to admit I actually liked him at first, and then wham, he raped Sarah and I changed my mind pretty quickly. I also wondered why Sarah confessed. I think there are several reasons. One, she is protecting Wood. Two, if she hadn't confessed, she was likely to be tortured until she did. Three, she figured she had to die anyway, so why not just get it over with. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (35 of 54), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Friday, February 04, 2000 10:55 AM David, I really like how you separated your spoiler from the note, and intend to use it from now on. I find myself with the intention of skipping spoilers far more often than I manage to. So, here goes: SPOILERS ! !! !!! !!!! !!!!! !!!!!! !!!!!!! !!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!! I finished the book Wednesday, and although I really, really don't like to tackle books over 500 pages (as I've mentioned here before), I didn't resent this one as much as usual. It was too long, but it read fast, I zipped through it in half the time allotted. I really believe Wood unintentionally killed Grove, it seemed to me Grove had put his dose in the brandy, and when he left the room, Wood dumped the rest in. Like David and Prestcott, I had determined that Ken was guilty after Book 1, so when Book 2 opened I had to groan; back to square one. The one thing I know about mysteries is that it ain't gonna be anybody openly suspect so early in the book. I never believed it was Sarah or Cola, of course, so until the last Book I was at a loss. In the end, I don't think the book was about murder at all, but one part religion, one part politics, one part history, and finally one part "fun with dead guys". Pears accomplished some pretty clever stuff through masterful blending of facts and imagination. Can't remember who asked, but I believe Sarah pleaded guilty because she knew she would be found that in the end, and by selling her body to Lower she could get speedy help for her mother. Also, she carried a sense of guilt and fate anyway, though not about Grove's death, as indicated in her conversations with Wood. I was not at all sold on the idea of Sarah as the resurrection of Christ. After dealing with so much reality, I can't imagine why Pears throws in this surreal bit. And I can't read it as Wood's fantasy, even if I try; after all it was witnessed by Lower and Locke, too. The big mystery of the book that I missed was the fact that Cola was not who we thought, despite numerous clues along the way. Pears got away with that by representing the Books as first person writings, and he made it look so easy. When that was revealed, I felt like shouting "hooray!" It made everything work. Tonya
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (36 of 54), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Friday, February 04, 2000 10:57 AM More spoiler.... I suspected Sarah wasn't dead from the original frantic autopsy scene -- way out of character for the good 'doctor' it seemed to me. For my money, this was a basic who-dunnit, all dressed up in detailed historical garb and we don't have to go for metaphysical or psychological explanations of the labryinthine plot. Except, possibly for Sarah's ultimate transfiguration; was this supposed to be real (I took it to be) or merely something the narrator believed based on a fragmentary report and his primitive religious sensibilities (Sarah actually made it to the New World, and half of us on this board are descended from her, one way or the other). The more I think about it, and consider how large a part the highly charged religious atmosphere of the time, played in the book, the more I begin to convince myself the latter explanation is the better one. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (37 of 54), Read 33 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, February 04, 2000 11:10 AM Isn't almost anything we say a SPOILER??? ???????? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? Wasn't it pretty clear that Woods offed the old guy by accident by thinking he was pulling the old frat prank of laxatives in the beer? And instead giving him an enormous dose of the old arsenic? And seems to me, Sarah made a confession of sorts--one which admitted to being guilty of some sort of religious folderol, not being worthy or something---and that this "confession" was misinterpreted by the listeners, most of whom had a interest in being sure of her guilt. Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (38 of 54), Read 31 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, February 04, 2000 11:52 AM Well -- okay -- SPOILER #?????????????? ! !! !!! !!!! !!!!! !!!!!! !!!!!!! !!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think Prestcott did meet Ken on the way back from Grove's or Wallis's which is where Prestcott actually was BUT he also said that he saw someone in the room didn't he? or that someone rushed out of the room past him? Or have I confused two stories? Sarah's transfiguration was just -- what? -- I don't know. What a book is my general response. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (39 of 54), Read 36 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Friday, February 04, 2000 12:33 PM Spoiler -- Really a Spoiler -- I tell Everything in this Post -- In Fact You'll Never Enjoy Another Book Of Any Sort If You Read This.... I think you can take Sarah's story either way; however, given the general story line, I'm still opting for my (revisionist) theory that her transport into heaven, as 1663's Montanist "Savior of the Year", was a construct put on remote, essentially unknown events by Woodson (right name? I don't have the book. The historian, anyway, narrator of Book IV). I say this (again) after reflecting on how the effects of time, distance, isolation, lack of scientific sophistication and religious credulity, all combine in this story to lead otherwise intelligent characters to wildly incorrect conclusions about all sorts of things. Of which Sarah assumption into heaven was but one, IMHO. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (40 of 54), Read 35 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, February 04, 2000 12:36 PM Tonya: Still SPOILING! ! !@ !@# !@#$ !@#$% !@#$%^ !@#$%^& !@#$%^&* !@#$%^&*( !@#$%^&*() Ah, but we only have Wood's word that Lower and Locke witnessed Sarah's "resurrection". They never actually speak for themselves--unless he mentions a later discussion with Lower that I don't remember. But I may well be reading too much into this. I didn't like Sarah's "ascension" (rather than transfiguration) at first; it seemed to convenient a method of getting her out of the way. On further reflection, though, it fits in well with the general religious tone. David, who is perhaps just being a skeptic instead of a believer.
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (41 of 54), Read 36 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, February 04, 2000 05:36 PM I'm with you, David, that she-really-didn't-die-but-anyway-she-was-resurrected business is the only place where my willing suspension of disbelief hit the ground with a resounding thud. The book didn't need this and I've no idea why it was thrown in. Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (42 of 54), Read 37 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, February 05, 2000 02:07 AM I have to agree that this also jarred me out of the story somewhat but I would have to do more thinking before explaining it to satisfy myself. Hmmm -- sounds like I would need to have a debate with myself before giving an opinion -- but in essence that's what happens, eh? Dottie -- always looking for excuses to talk to herself! ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (43 of 54), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Saturday, February 05, 2000 09:35 AM I never counted Wood among the unreliable narrators, or at least not among the purposefully, willfully lying like a dog narrators. I think he said someone on the ship reported that Sarah dissolved into the bright light of day, and it was the most unexpected and jarring moment in the book, but I was compelled to believe it, coming from him. Maybe this happens because Pears wants to get in one more surprise before it's all over; when Sarah revives in Boyle's lab my thought was "well, of course, she didn't hang long enough to die!" If she ascended, however, then she must have died in the first place. And if Pears means it literally, then he got another zinger in before the end. Ruth, IMO there is no scenario of she-didn't-die-but-she-ascended-anyway. Either she was not dead after the hanging, and the report from the ship was wrong (or all in Wood's head), or she hanged until dead, was hustled into the cave-like lab of Dr. Boyle where she was resurrected, and about two weeks later ascended to heaven. I don't see how you can mix the pieces around into anything coherent. Tonya
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (44 of 54), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, February 05, 2000 04:23 PM I know there are 2 scenarios, Tonya, I was just trying to be clever with my description. It fits the general tone of the book that we are given more than one version of what happened to her and have to make up our minds which to believe. The trouble with the choices offered here, tho, is that they just jarred me right out of the novel, and I don't see any particular reason for including them. Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (45 of 54), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Felix Miller (felix3rd@cdc.net) Date: Saturday, February 05, 2000 07:23 PM Having now alighted from the torturous carnival ride crafted by Mr. Pears, I repeat what I said earlier, while still in the twisted, gloomy company of Wallis, the most unappealing character in my recent experience. I liked this book. I didn't worry myself much about guessing where the plot was going, I just hung on for the ride. I have several conclusions on the points raised about this book in the preceding posts. I think that the central character in this book is Sarah Blundy. The religious fixation of all the characters swirls about Sarah, who is the "elephant" in the fable referred to by David earlier in this thread. Every narrator is blind to other than their own subjective view of Sarah. I think that Grove died as a result of several doses of arsenic both intentional and accidental, the final dose coming from Wood. I did not find Sarah's non-execution and/or resurrection at all jarring or unbelievable. The whole book is one plot switch after another, a succession of revelations undoing previous conclusions. As far as Wood's conviction that Sarah was a Montantist savior of the year, there is little objective in the book to convince me that this was real. Of course, the book is composed of the viewpoints of decidedly unobjective narrators, so anything any one of them says is subject to skepticism. And Lower did assert to Wood that Sarah obviously was not dead when cut down from the hanging. And on what authority does Wood take the account of Sarah's ascension? On the evidence of Sarah's testimony at the meeting and her apparent acceptance of Wood's veneration, all the narrators and most of the characters in this book believe a bewildering variety of contradictory religious doctrines. That Wood is the most appealing and most nearly objective narrator does not mean he has the one "true" view of Sarah's life and death. Regards from the valley, Felix Miller No matter how cynical I get, I can't keep up.-Lily Tomlin
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (46 of 54), Read 31 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Sunday, February 06, 2000 03:18 AM Felix -- I am SO glad to have your input on this one -- excellent note! Tonya and Ruth -- believe in SB's ascension or not -- I still felt it to be the one point which took me briefly out of the story which in itself makes it a problem after such an immersion in a book. Long enough -- not even too long -- this one was definitely worth the ride as Felix says. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (47 of 54), Read 30 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, February 06, 2000 07:44 AM Felix, What a great note. I agree with you on every point that I can think of. I wasn't jarred out of the book by the apparently magical parts of the book. As Felix said, Wood seems like the most reliable narrator, so we tend to believe him (we'd like to believe somebody). That doesn't mean it was just the way he portrayed it. I was genuinely surprised by the de Cola revelation. I wondered, when Wallis was obsessed with de Cola, who in the hell he was talking about. I just thought Wallis was arrogant and crazy. But there was some reasoning behind his mistake. Another question. How could somebody who was such a mathematical genius as Wallis, be so illogical when it came to real life? To me that was the part of the book that seemed unrealistic. Although, the real Wallis was supposed to be vitriolic. I wonder if he was also was as obsessive and wrong-headed. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (48 of 54), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Felix Miller (felix3rd@cdc.net) Date: Sunday, February 06, 2000 10:38 AM I realized after I posted my last note that I had omitted the spoiler alert that others so considerately used, so I will begin by... ! !@ !@# !@#$ !@#$% !@#$ !@# !@ !@ ! SpOiLeR: you May noT hAvE eVeRY bOoK yOU rEAd sPoiLed bY tHIs NotE, bUt i LiKEd DIck'S spOilER sO muCh THAt I pLAgiArizeD It!! : : I was repeatedly blindsided by the twist and turns of this book, which is my usual fate when I read mysteries. I never even figured out the Hardy Boys' plots. For some reason this has not dampened my enthusiasm for mysteries, from Agatha Christie to John D. McDonald to Umberto Eco. Two revelations were especially unsuspected by me: Cola's true identity and Prescott's ending up in Bedlam. (I assume the hospital which he thought his mansion was Bethlehem Hospital?) I can now see lots of indicators of Cola not being the soldier of Crete, but still find nothing in Prescott's ramblings to hint he ended up institutionalized. Obviously, the boy was several bricks shy of a load, especially where Sarah was concerened, but many folk remain at large with equally bent thought processes. But, as I say, confusion seems to be part of the charm of mystery stories for me. Regards from the valley, Felix Miller No matter how cynical I get, I can't keep up.-Lily Tomlin
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (49 of 54), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Sunday, February 06, 2000 08:20 PM Spoilers abound in the following ********************************************* When I was reading book two, I at first liked Prestcott as Sherry said (I think that it was Sherry). Who wouldn't like a young man who was trying to clear the name of his beloved father? Then when he raped Sarah and destroyed the reputation of Dr. Grove to help his friend Ken, I could barely stand to read the rest of his book. I have a theory about the religious theme. I see Wood as St. Peter. The Irishman Greatorex asks Wood if the cock has crowed yet. I see Wallis as Pontius Pilate. He knows that Sarah is not guilty, but he allows her to be executed because it fits into his own plans. I see Prestcott as Judas because he betrays both Sarah and Grove to set up the whole murder and execution. If I remember correctly, Ken gives him some money about the time that he starts spreading the tales about Grove and Sarah. I haven't come up with Cola's biblical identity yet. I found it strange that he was willing to do transfusions. Surely, this must have been symbolic of giving Christ's blood to save the soul and the life of another. Jane
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (50 of 54), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, February 06, 2000 08:26 PM Wow, Jane. You make me feel pretty dense. Here I was thinking this was just an overgrown overwritten Rashoman like mystery. Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (51 of 54), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, February 06, 2000 08:39 PM Warning! The Spoiler General has determined that reading the following may be hazardous to your enjoyment of the book. в вд вда вдае вдаез вдаезк вдаезкл вдаезкли вдаезклkип вдаезклkипо Prestcott's insanity and Cola's true identity surprised me as well, but on reflection they seem to fit perfectly. They seem less a case of Unreliable Narrator than of Unreliable Reader! In fact, it seems to me that Cola was the only one who deliberately misrepresented the facts. The others told their stories in all good faith, but their conclusions were clouded by their own particular circumstances and prejudices. Makes you wonder if anyone can write a truly objective history. David, who's beginning to think that this Spoiler thing isn't really doing much good any more.
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (52 of 54), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, February 06, 2000 09:24 PM Wow, Jane. You put your finger on a theme that I only saw faintly through the thicket of plot and then promptly forgot all about. Great detective work (all those mystery books pay off sometimes!) If the book weren't so darn long, I would like to reread it, knowing the answers in advance. I bet there are lots more "clues" that could be caught that way. A very intricate book -- I enjoyed it thoroughly. Now a very mundane question. I know the title is referred to in the beginning of the fourth book. I guess "fingerpost" is a road-sign pointer. But could someone give me an idea of what the significance is of "an instance" of the fingerpost? Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (53 of 54), Read 8 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Felix Miller (felix3rd@cdc.net) Date: Monday, February 07, 2000 06:11 AM Sherry, I take "instance" as "occurrence" so that "Instance of the Fingerpost" would be sort of the appearance of a clue which led you to the truth. Thus the final section of the book carries that as its title. And as I said above, Wood is the most nearly accurate reporter of events here, allowing for his subjective interpretation of the facts. He alone has all the facts, and tells the whole story. Regards from the valley, Felix Miller No matter how cynical I get, I can't keep up.-Lily Tomlin
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (54 of 54), Read 3 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Monday, February 07, 2000 10:30 AM Felix, as I said earlier, the true identity of Cola was a big, big surprise to me, too. But since I kept flipping to the list of characters in the back, I was forever expecting Prestcott's insanity, I just didn't expect it to be so cleverly alluded to in his own account. Very interesting analogy, Jane. I have no idea either how Cola would fit, though. Perhaps you could just say he is "the church" or "the religious threat"? Interesting, using your theory, there is even a last supper, of sorts, just before Grove's death. Tonya Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (55 of 57), Read 22 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, February 07, 2000 11:07 AM I wonder what would have happened if Dr. Lower had gone to Hannibal Lecter's cell to negotiate for his corpse? David Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (56 of 57), Read 14 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, February 07, 2000 08:46 PM Sherry, I didn't come up with my theory until the last book, so I, too, wish I had time to reread the book. But as we all know, "So many books, so little time". I found it interesting that Wood was an actual historical figure. And since he was an historian, Pears must be telling us that he has given us the most accurate version of the story. Jane Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (57 of 57), Read 10 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, February 08, 2000 02:43 AM On 2/7/00 8:46:33 PM, Jane Niemeier wrote: >Sherry, >I didn't come up with my >theory until the last book, so >I, too, wish I had time to >reread the book. But as we >all know, "So many books, so >little time". > >I found it interesting that >Wood was an actual historical >figure. And since he was an >historian, Pears must be >telling us that he has given >us the most accurate version >of the story. > >Jane > Jane -- I agree with Sherry on your theory being of interest but still I have to chuckle over your current note! My OWN immediate reaction/conclusion concerning Wood as a representative historian was that history is a construct and that much if not most of it was/is written by individuals with their own biases and weaknesses and so forth and that therefore it should be suspect always rather than be taken as the most accurate version of events. History as elephant seen by blind men to go back to Dick's (?) reference early in this thread. Which is much like the discussion of a book by many readers, is it not? Wood himself points out early in his narrative why his own version though as accurate as he can make it is not necessarily to be taken as true over and against whatever truth lies in the previous narratives. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (58 of 67), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Saturday, February 12, 2000 09:03 PM I woke up in the middle of the night last night wondering why Cola had written his memoirs. If he was truly a Catholic priest, why did he feel the need to write about his experiments with transfusion? At the end of the book, I felt that his work as a physician was only a cover for his true mission in England. If the memoirs were really written years later, why didn't he reveal the true nature of his visit? Jane
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (59 of 67), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Catherine Hill (catherine.hill3@gte.net) Date: Saturday, February 12, 2000 11:53 PM Jane, at the time de Cola wrote and started sending around the ficticious memoir that got the whole thing started, Charles II was still alive and well. Knowledge that he had actually converted to Catholicism would literally have started a civil war. Pears does a pretty good job of portraying the religious and political tensions of the time. I admired the clever plot twist of de Cola's true identity, but the first thing I thought of was that Charles would only have used a well-respected foreign priest to convince Louis XIV of his sincere conversion. He was running quite a con game with old Louis for most of his reign. The Secret Treaty of Dover of 1670 eventually became an open secret, but the king's conversion would have been another matter. As historical fact, he received extreme unction from the one priest he wanted and trusted, Father Huddleston, who had save him after the Battle of Worcester. As for Sarah's resurrection after the botched hanging, that bit rang true historically. Hanging in that time was a chancy, drawn out business, and Lower could have arranged for that little mistake. The miraculous ascension I rather discounted as a fantasized report that had gotten back to Wood. The one thing I felt was that it was darn good she didn't get to New England - those SOBs would have hanged her again. The type of religion she represented is never popular with a religious establishment. I was surprised and relieved that Jack wound up in the looney bin. If he'd been prudent enough to drink himself to death first he mightn't have come to such an end. Noblemen of the time could get by with his sort of behavior. An example is Philip Herbert, 5th Earl of Pembroke, who lost his benefit of clergy for kicking a man to death. He didn't remember it, of course - completely blotto. There was so little that could be done about mental illness. On blood transfusions, anything about blood and circulation was all the medical and scientific rage at the time. The circulation of the blood had first been discovered in Europe by John Harvey, who had tutored Charles II as a young man. The Royal Academy of Science was big on things like experimental transfusions. By the way, anything you can say about this book is a spoiler. CFH
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (60 of 67), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, February 13, 2000 09:07 AM Cathy, I figured you would turn up and answer a few questions for us. I remember you liked this book. I have a question for you regarding John Wallis. He was a mathematician on a par with Newton, yet he was portrayed as a megalomaniac who came to the most ridiculous conclusions regarding Cola. How do you reconcile those two things? Of course he blamed Cola for the death of his beloved Matthew (I think he would have figured out a way to blame the sinking of the Titanic on him if it had been an issue). I wonder what really happened to Matthew. There was some sort of explanation, but my understanding of it was fleeting. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (61 of 67), Read 20 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Sunday, February 13, 2000 08:24 PM Sherry, I think that the book says that Sir Henry Bennet arranged for the death of Matthew after Wallis mentioned that Matthew had become friends with Cola on the continent. Sir Henry probably thought that Matthew might have guessed the purpose of Cola's visit to England. It said that Bennet had used the same thug who had broken into the firm owned by Cola's family. If you remember the thug killed the Cola's Italian employee who was running their company in London. It is all kind of ironic seeing as how Wallis arranged for the break in that killed the Italian, and Bennet used the same man to kill Wallis' beloved Matthew. Jane
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (62 of 67), Read 18 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Monday, February 14, 2000 07:48 AM Thanks for the reminder, Jane. Some of the political shenanigans became mired in my brain. I couldn't keep the players straight. I hadn't connected that the two murders were done by the same bad guy. Thanks for pointing that out. It is indeed ironic. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (63 of 67), Read 15 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, February 14, 2000 03:09 PM I finally finished this book today. Parts I and IV were compelling, but I had to plow through Parts II (Prescott) and III (Wallis). Anthony Wood was the only really sympathetic narrator and part IV tied up so many loose ends that I am glad I persisted. The only part I found really jarring was the casting of Sarah Blundy as a routinely reincarnated Messiah. Jane, thanks for pointing out all the religious allusions. There was another one that really struck me on page 678 Chapter 10, Part IV. Wood goes to visit Sarah's mother and it turns out that the Holy Spirit (doves) is her true father. It is certainly not her mother's husband and she never committed fornication. It's not exactly a virgin birth, since Sarah's mother presumably had relations with her husband, but it comes pretty darn close. So what do you think Pears is saying with all this? Do you think it's possible that he thinks this part of the plot is not any more fantastic than the core beliefs of Christianity itself? Ann
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (64 of 67), Read 16 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@slip.net) Date: Monday, February 14, 2000 04:59 PM So what do you think Pears is saying with all this? Do you think it's possible that he thinks this part of the plot is not any more fantastic than the core beliefs of Christianity itself? Ooops! PRES
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (65 of 67), Read 11 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, February 14, 2000 06:42 PM Okay, I didn't phrase that very well. I wasn't making a statement about my personal beliefs. I am sure that there are some (although perhaps none on CR) who consider this part of the plot blasphemous. Personally, I think it would have been a much better book if he had left it out and come up with a more plausible motivation for Sarah's actions. I was just wondering what motivated Pears to include it. Obviously, he felt it was appropriate. Ann
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (66 of 67), Read 6 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, February 14, 2000 08:48 PM Ann, I noticed that section about the virgin birth as well. One of the characters mentioned that there would be a messiah figure in each generation, and in each generation, he or she would be killed. It says a lot about the close-mindedness of most people. I even thought about the movie THE GREEN MILE when I finished FINGERPOST. I assume the book GREEN MILE has a similar messiah figure, but I don't read Stephen King books. Pears is also giving a good portrait of the way women were treated during this time period. It makes one stop and think. I haven't answered your question because I don't know the answer. Just a ramblin', Jane
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (67 of 67), Read 4 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Catherine Hill (catherine.hill3@gte.net) Date: Monday, February 14, 2000 09:48 PM Sherry, I had forgotten all about Matthew, since it's been months since I read the book. I didn't have any particular trouble with Wallis being both a brilliant mathemetician and criptographer and a megalomaniac (not to mention closet gay, apparently). People with emotional disorders sometimes do have astonishing mathematical skills. On the religion/resurrection front, I think Pears may just be portraying a nut movement of the times and its beliefs. Heaven knows we have similar things among us, and this age was known for religious nutsiness. CFH
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (67 of 79), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 02:45 AM I am in agreement with Catherine on this virgin birth/resurrection theme in AIOTF. My own thoughts on it at the time took into account the reigning religious unrest of that period while my reaction to it was more on a personal level relative to my own religious beliefs -- which while strongly held might not always meet with the approval of the organized religion of which I am a member -- or any others today come to think of it. Of course, I am sure I'd get arguments from several directions as to why what I think means I am actually in a particular camp. For example -- Ann, your statement didn't bother me in the least -- it seems a reasonable assessment of Pears thinking on this -- or his take on the religious period of which he was writing. ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (68 of 79), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 07:54 AM Cathy, I guess I have trouble reconciling that John Wallis was so logical when it came to mathematics and so illogical when it came to tracking down murderers. He used such frivolous bits of "evidence" which would not have worked at all had he been trying to prove something mathematically. I have no trouble thinking that someone who is a genius in one area can be crazy in another, it was just that it seemed to me these two areas would use the same kind of thinking. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (69 of 79), Read 23 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 02:17 PM I understand what you mean, Sherry, but I didn't see an inconsistency in Wallis. Don't you think logic with cold, hard numbers is a different thing than logic with real live people, whose thinking doesn't always add up. Wallis seemed to me like he was purely a numbers person, not one to understand the machinations of actual human beings. Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (70 of 79), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 03:02 PM I guess. I just have a hard time understanding his vitriolic hatred of Cola. I mean, he felt that way even before Matthew was murdered. I guess his intolerance of Catholics added fuel to the fire. Sherry
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (71 of 79), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 04:21 PM Wasn't his hatred of Cola fueled by insane jealousy---the fear the Cola would "steal" Matthew? Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (72 of 79), Read 23 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 04:59 PM Yes, I think the jealousy was very important, but as Sherry pointed out Wallis seemed unreasonably suspicious of Cola even before Cola became acquainted with Mathew. Wallis kept leaping to conclusions which made absolutely no sense to me. I thought the Wallis section was the weakest one in the novel. Jack Prescott made a bunch of bad assumptions too, but at least they seemed more understandable. Ann
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (73 of 79), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 05:02 PM Jane, Yes, I also noted the very lowly position of women in this novel. Makes you glad you were born in the mid-20th century, doesn't it? Ann
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (74 of 79), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 05:03 PM Cathy and Dottie, Good point about Pears pointing out some of the nutty religious movements of the time. He certainly shows how far off base the medical and scientific theories were. Ann
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (75 of 79), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 05:42 PM One thing that may account for Wallis' preternatual hostility to Cola is the fact that all of this is being described with hindsight. It's all getting a little fuzzy to me now (was Wallis an inter vivos conveyor of property? and if so, please describe the quality of the estate left in his heirs...) but I seem to recall that his narrative is written many years after the fact. So his current statements, regarding how "he wasn't fooled for a minute", can be seen as merely self-serving and reflections of the petty nature of the man on a personal level. Although, upon reflection, I may have gotten this confused with Crime and Punishment, which reminds me: did you know that common law murder was not a specific intent crime but rather one of malice? And that the specific intent crimes include only the inchoate crimes of solicitation, attempt and conspiracy (the first two merging invariably with the completed crime; the third not), premeditated murder, assault, larceny, fraud, forgery, and burglary? Anyway, back to the books, although not any anyone here would care to open.... The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (76 of 79), Read 15 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 08:49 PM Okay, Sir Richard, I have no idea what "inter vivos conveyor of property" means. Jane
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (77 of 79), Read 15 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2000 09:05 PM God help me, neither do I. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (78 of 79), Read 14 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, February 16, 2000 12:54 AM Heh! Ruth
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (79 of 79), Read 12 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, February 16, 2000 05:55 AM So perhaps we can conclude form this that life today -- the law, religion, the emotional/human equations are as interwoven -- off-balanced -- and chaotic as they ever were? Scary thought -- but I did think as I read these accounts that this is one of the conclusions one could draw from AIOTFP. Dottie -- thinking nothing new under the sun -- good/evil and which is which -- back to you, Job! ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (80 of 80), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Catherine Hill (catherine.hill3@gte.net) Date: Wednesday, February 16, 2000 10:45 PM I got my signed hardback of this book at the ACLU silent auction two years ago, and now I see why it was the type of book that would turn up there. It gives you LOTS to think about on the separation of church and state. CFH

 

 
 

 
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