From the author of the international best seller An Instance of the Fingerpost, Arcadia is an astonishing work of imagination.
In Cold War England, Professor Henry Lytten, having renounced a career in espionage, is writing a fantasy novel that dares to imagine a world less fraught than his own. He finds an unlikely confidante in Rosie, an inquisitive young neighbor who, while chasing after Lytten's cat one day, stumbles through a doorway in his cellar and into a stunning and unfamiliar bucolic landscape—remarkably like the fantasy world Lytten is writing about. There she meets a young boy named Jay who is about to embark on a journey that will change both their lives. Elsewhere, in a distopian society where progress is controlled by a corrupt ruling elite, the brilliant scientist Angela Meerson has discovered the potential of a powerful new machine. When the authorities come knocking, she will make an important decision—one that will reverberate through all these different lives and worlds.
Pears's (An Instance of the Fingerpost) latest is a clever, well-constructed story. Living in an environmentally ravaged future governed by a technocratic so-called Scientific Government, the "psychomathematician" Angela Meerson builds a machine that could in theory access the resources of a parallel universe. However, the contraption turns out to be a good old-fashioned time machine that transports Meerson to pre-WWII Europe. Several decades later in 1960, she has built a new version of her machine in the cellar of the house of her lover, Henry Lytten, an Oxford literature scholar and intelligence agent who also dabbles in creative writing. Drawing heavily on the tropes of the Elizabethan pastoral and many other sources, Lytten has outlined a novel set in the fantasy realm of Anterworld. Anterworld is an oral culture whose priests are "Storytellers," scholar-bards who roam the land and impart wisdom through sacred tales. Meerson uses Lytten's sketchily conceived world to create a "latent" universe in her machine, a universe that gets activated, with unforeseen consequences, when a young girl named Rosie stumbles into the realm. Anterworld is meant to be derivative, borrowing from the long literary tradition of utopia and fantasy; this quality perhaps explains why although it gets the most attention of the novel's three narratives, Anterworld is the least enchanting. Nonetheless, Pears excels at stage-managing the multiple sets as the actors leap from the dystopian future, to England in the grips of the Cold War, to whenever Anterworld could be said to exist, altering history as they go. A fun, immersive, genre-bending ride. 75,000-copy first printing.
Story within a story within a story within a story. Echoes of history and literature. Asks all the right questions. Pears does not disappoint.
Very good read
I wish there was more to the story