I’m only 200 pages in (it’s 800 or so, I think), but I can’t remember a book that has so much reminded me of John Fowles’ Magus, what with the sexual tension, the unlikeable narrator and the (seemingly) deep and complicated plot which blows our hapless hero through the novel.
Somehow, Pears doesn’t seem to be able to pull it off quite as well, though. Fowles, perhaps, has an advantage in his era: there was a pretty certain meta-narrative (liberation!) to the 60s, one that he could write with and against as it pleased him. Pears doesn’t really have anything like a stable matrix to write against.
And that sort of historical meta-narrative does seem to be a big concern for Pears (see Dream of Scipio, which by my reading is a fairly serious consideration of what it means to live in a decaying culture).
Also, I’m reading a advance review copy, so there are a number of mistakes and omissions that are bothersome to me. One thing that is amusing is the letter to reviewers from one of the publishers–this novel represents a “return to form” for Pears–the form of the Instance of the Fingerpost. And it is indeed a literal return to that semi-postmodern, genre-influenced door-stopper form, but the heavy implication is that we should have been very disappointed in Pears work between Fingerpost and Stone. I don’t think we should be so quick to dismiss Scipio or The Portrait, both worthy reads, imo, if quite different from Fingerpost.
One fault of the novel can’t be blamed on the lack of final editing: important plot elements that drop from the sky–perhaps all will be made clear though farther along . . .