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The Dream of Scipio

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  3,251 Ratings  ·  326 Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review

Confirming Ian Pears's prodigious talent, The Dream of Scipio is a stunning meditation on history and moral philosophy that rises to the standard established in his highly acclaimed 1998 novel An Instance of the Fingerpost, the massive, intricate historical mystery that evoked comparisons to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.



In The Dream of Sc

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Hardcover, 400 pages
Published June 4th 2002 by Riverhead Books (first published 2002)
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(showing 1-30)
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Richard Derus
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: In The Dream of Scipio, the acclaimed author of An Instance of the Fingerpost intertwines three intellectual mysteries, three love stories�and three of the darkest moments in human history. United by a classical text called "The Dream of Scipio," three men struggle to find refuge for their hearts and minds from the madness that surrounds them...in the final days of the Roman Empire, in the grim years of the Black Death, and in the direst hours of World War
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Maciek
I bought and read The Dream of Scipio because I really enjoyed Pears's An Instance of the Fingerpost, which was a thoroughly engaging, immersive historical mystery. In comparison, The Dream of Scipio - while ambitious just like its predecessor - falls a little short.

The Dream of Scipio follows the life of three very different men, all of whom lived in Provence in three different centuries, during various times of great and important historical change: Manlius Hippomanes, a wealthy Roman aristocr
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Erin Casey
Oct 09, 2007 Erin Casey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This book tells the three most tragic and beautiful stories I have ever read. Each takes place in Avignon, but in a different era of crisis - the loss of Gaul from the Roman Empire, the Black Death arriving during the split in the Roman Church, and the Occupation in WWII. Each successive narrator is aware of his predecessor(s), respects them and wishes to understand them, to better handle themselves in their own time of crisis and to better serve the incredible women they love. I think only one ...more
Laura
Some interesting facts concerning this booK:

1- According to Wikipedia, "The Dream of Scipio (Latin, Somnium Scipionis), written by Cicero, is the sixth book of De re publica, and describes a fictional dream vision of the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus, set two years before he commanded at the destruction of Carthage in 146 BCE."

2-Some critics consider Raphael's painting Vision of a Knight to be a depiction of Scipio's Dream.



Themis-Athena wrote a great review about this book.
Jane Niehaus
Some books we read for pleasure, some for intrigue, some for thought-provoking stimulus. Given the nature of this book--three interwoven stories across three time periods--fall of the roman empire, the black plague in 1350s, and WWII France--I find it required a lot of concentration--especially during my early morning commute and late at night. Occasionally, I'd have to back track a few pages to figure out where some character or detail first appeared--not easy to do when the stories change ever ...more
Nicole
Mar 20, 2014 Nicole marked it as unfinished  ·  review of another edition
So the other day Yann and I were talking about food (as one does here) and the in-laws. The conversation centered around the kiwi question, which is as follows:

I do not particularly like kiwis, but neither do I particularly dislike them. I am happy to eat a kiwi which is placed in front of me, without objection or disgust, but I do not necessarily take great pleasure in eating them either. They're fine. They're moyen. They're edible, but I wouldn't cross the street for one.

I am unable to succes
...more
Stephanie Butland
Jan 16, 2009 Stephanie Butland rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is that rare thing - a book I gave up on. I realised after 100 pages or so that I was actually dreading reading it.... a disappointment, as I loved An Instance of the Fingerpost A Novelby the same author.
Lissa Notreallywolf
Jun 05, 2011 Lissa Notreallywolf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goned
This was one of the most remarkable novels I have ever read. The theme introduced is how one participates in epochs of change. Set in three different time periods in Provence, France, the novel explores how three different men make decisions about the preservation of culture. They are Manlius Hippomanes, living in the decline of the Roman empire; Olivier de Noyen living during the Italian Renaissance with the exiled papacy and Julien Barneuve a scholar during the Nazi occupation. I am familiar w ...more
Suzanne Vrieze
Aug 16, 2012 Suzanne Vrieze rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful book that deals mainly with the question of how to preserve civilisation set in various times of great trouble, disease, war and stress. The conclusion or essence of the book, and an excerpt that stuck with me, I found on page 370-371, when Julien talks to Marcel during WWII:

I thought in this simple contrast between the civilised and the barbaric, but I was wrong. It is the civilised wo are truly barbaric, and the Germans are merely the supreme expression of it. They are our greatest a
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Jesse Bullington
Some time ago I finished The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears and it has continued to drift around my mind ever since. Simply put, it is a wonderful book that, if you are anything like me, you will savor as the rare delicacy that it is. I literally forced myself to put it down several times in order to prolong the pleasure of reading it. My first Pears novel and already I am in awe of the fellow.

I cannot think of the last book I read where parallels among characters were drawn with such subtlety an
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David
Jul 24, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book.

The three stories of a fifth century Roman bishop, a Medieval court person and a twentieth century historian blend nicely together and have a tension brought on by three turning points in world history: the fall of the Roman Empire, the plague and the Holocaust. Tied together is the will to survive and the scourge of collapse. The three stories are really one story as the more modern person looks back on the Medieval person, who in turn examines the Bishop and each tries to un
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Juan Pablo
Sep 23, 2014 Juan Pablo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
El sueño de Escipión trata el clásico y apasionante tema del papel de la cultura en tiempos de guerra. A partir de tres personajes similares, hombres de letras representativos de su tiempo, el autor desarrolla otras tantas historias paralelas ambientadas en Provenza durante momentos históricos de crisis de la civilización europea: caída del Imperio romano (siglo V); la peste negra durante el exilio de la sede pontificia en Aviñón (siglo XIV), y la segunda guerra mundial. A partir de su investiga ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 26, 2013 Ron Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Iain Pears is everybody's fantasy of the ultimate history teacher. (At least for people whose fantasies extend to history teachers.) His popular mysteries, so intricately woven from the threads of the past, have given the genre more class and intellectual depth than it's ever had. His latest novel, "The Dream of Scipio," is another category-buster, a work of such philosophical and cultural complexity that its greatest mystery is "How can Pears know so much?"

Pears's canvas has never been larger (
...more
Jess
Jul 23, 2014 Jess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a perfect book.

The Dream of Scipio opens with the death of one of the main characters, Julien, an academic who has spent much of his life studying one of the other main characters, Oliverio, who in turn had during his life a hunger for learning which drew him to study the third main character, Manlius. Julien was a soldier in WWI and becomes a bureaucrat in occupied France during WWII. Oliverio is a poet and a secretery for a Cardinal in Avignon during the time of Pope Clement before and a
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Roewoof
Dec 05, 2014 Roewoof rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pears delivered an excellent novel, but I expected this when I picked it up.

The dream of Scipio is a novel about three men living in three separate times whose only connection to each other is a manuscript, that was written by a philosopher years before. The manuscript is inspired by a female philosopher, and in each subsequent time, each man is inspired to understand her teachings and the manuscript itself through their own work, their own love lives, and the political upheaval in each of thei
...more
Kathryn Bashaar
This book has an interesting premise. Three different characters who live in Provence at three different points in history, are faced with the same moral dilemna: in times of chaos and uncertainty, how much should a good man compromise with evil, in the attempt to protect something or someone that he values? Manlius Hippomanes lives at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire, and has to decide how much he will compromise with the barbarians and the rising Christian church, to protect the classi ...more
Richard
Oct 16, 2013 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started my summer with the hugely distasteful, "Angels and Demons," by Dan Brown, his precursor to, "The Da Vinci Code;" and then, thankfully, strode into midsummer with the perfect antidote, "The Dream of Scipio," by Iain Pears. Where the former ripped through a fantasy-land of paranoia, the latter provides a deep exploration of wisdom, love, friendship, bigotry, betrayal, relative morality - and, well, a whole existential landscape.
Mr. Pears uses the common literary device of telling three s
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Cynthia
UNCLE. I give up. I love Iain Pears, and I can tell this is an interesting book, well-written with interesting characters. If I were on vacation and could read the whole thing with 100 percent concentration, in one or two sittings, I'm sure I would have finished it and loved it, which is why I gave it four stars. But I'm not on vacation and am reading it in little bits, at the end of the day, half asleep, in bed. I just can't follow the plot. There are three characters/story lines that each get ...more
Slmcmahon
Mar 11, 2012 Slmcmahon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that I read slowly and carefully. I will most likely reread The Dream of Scipio, not so much because I feel that I missed something, although I probably did, but to revisit a perpetual dilemma well presented.

Three stories overlap and intertwine, one set during the fall of the Roman Empire, the second during the years of the black plague and the removal of the papacy to Avignon and the third takes place in the years of the Second World War. The stories have in common the setting in
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Carol
Aug 07, 2008 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dad, for the interesting interweaving of history
Recommended to Carol by: Sandy
I can't remember the last time I was so happy to be finished reading a book! This took what felt like an eternity to read. The beginning is so slow, that I set it down and read two other books before picking it back up (which I did because I love the person that recommended it to me and respected that he wanted me to read it).

About halfway through it did pick up, but with difficulty. It is a trio of interwoven stories following academic Julien in the 20th century (WWII) who is studying the poet
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Jo
Feb 21, 2017 Jo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Provence at three different critical moments of Western Civilisation - the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, the Black Death in the fourteenth, and the Second World War in the twentieth - The Dream of Scipio follows the fortunes of three men: Manlius Hippomanes, a Gallic aristocrat obsessed with the preservation of Roman civilisation, Olivier de Noyen, a poet, and Julien Barneuve, an intellectual who joins the Vichy government. The story of each man is woven through the n ...more
Dana Clinton
Jun 17, 2015 Dana Clinton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here is another book passed on by my daughter and which I was very happy to receive, as I had very much enjoyed Iain Pears' The Instance of the Fingerpost a year or so ago. This novel is intriguing and makes a lot of demands on the reader, as it details a lot of philosophy, especially in relation to Platonic ideas and how they come to influence three men and their lives at three different periods of history: Manlius Hippomanes, who creates a manuscript in the 4th century which is the Dream of Sc ...more
Daniel E. Ritchie
A moving work of historical fiction (pub. 2002) set in three time periods, viewed from a single setting -- Provence, France. All three plots consider the area around Avignon (and north, up to Lyon) during times of great historical stress: the fall of Roman Gaul to the Goths (late 5th century), the Black Death (.ca 1350), and World War II, from the Vichy regime through the Nazi takeover (up to 1943).

In each of the three plots, Pears skillfully works in themes of love, anti-Semitism, religious fe
...more
Kathy
Sep 21, 2016 Kathy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Was this really only 396 pp? A heavy book, but I took this one home because the one I would really like to read, "instance of the fingerpost" was over 700 pp and too heavy for me to carry back to my loft. I admire this author's writing. Yes I do. This book is very heavy in a different way - weaving three stories together that have the common thread of what seems to be a man in love with a woman wherein the love is doomed. They also have the geographic center of Provence in common. How to describ ...more
Shelley Schanfield
Everything a good historical novel should be. Ideas clothed in real people, real people clothed in the ideas of ancient Rome as perceived by three men who live at different times in Provence. Manlius is the 6th century heir of the dying Roman empire, Olivier a 14th century poet during the time of the plague, Julien an historian living under the Vichy government, who discovers the truth about Olivier's death and the key to his poetry. It's all strung together by a manuscript of Cicero's Dream of ...more
Tony Taylor
The Dream of Scipio is an inventive, gloriously detailed historical novel told from multiple viewpoints. But Pears has set himself an additional challenge by spreading his narrators over several centuries: there's the fifth century French nobleman and bishop, Manlius, a civilized man who has embraced the uncouth Christian faith in order to protect what he holds dear; an 11th-century scholar and troubadour named Olivier de Noyen, the famously ill-fated admirer of a married girl; and Julien Barneu ...more
Rob Adey
Oct 16, 2015 Rob Adey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don't think I've encountered such an ingenious structure as this before - three separate but interwoven historical stories, with the earlier ones informing the later ones. It's a neat trick, and one which really foregrounds the novel's themes, which are very relevant to today's real-world theme of imminent civilisational collapse.

It's a risk as you've essentially got three shuffled together novellas - and I'd guess Pears' had a favourite, as the medieval one feels the most real - each of which c
...more
Judy Chessin
Aug 29, 2013 Judy Chessin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three different tales of coping with impending societal change... one at the decline of the Roman empire, one during the black plague and one during the Nazi occupation in France. I, unlike so many reviewers, had no trouble moving from time to time period, but the philosophical connection was what eluded me. What was the philosophical underpining which tied the three protagonists together? For this, I will have to re-read. What stood out to me, is how in the decline of every civilization, societ ...more
Besha
Jun 18, 2013 Besha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, 2016
I'd been thinking about this book since November 9th, and decided to reread it: a novel about times civilization ended, and the choices people made to save a little of it.

The philosophy is largely beyond my ken, which sometimes drags down the flow of the story, but the characters are strong and true and the settings are brilliantly evoked.

Pears' ultimate argument is that collaboration with barbarism in order to save scraps of civilization is not civilized at all; the evils done by good men are
...more
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Iain Pears is an English art historian, novelist and journalist. He was educated at Warwick School, Warwick, Wadham College and Wolfson College, Oxford. Before writing, he worked as a reporter for the BBC, Channel 4 (UK) and ZDF (Germany) and correspondent for Reuters from 1982 to 1990 in Italy, France, UK and US. In 1987 he became a Getty Fellow in the Arts and Humanities at Yale University. His ...more
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“For the first time, she did want more. She did not know what she wanted, knew that it was dangerous and that she should rest content with what she had, but she knew an emptiness deep inside her, which began to ache.” 165 likes
“Was not Hypatia the greatest philosopher of Alexandria, and a true martyr to the old values of learning? She was torn to pieces by a mob of incensed Christians not because she was a woman, but because her learning was so profound, her skills at dialectic so extensive that she reduced all who queried her to embarrassed silence. They could not argue with her, so they murdered her.” 40 likes
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