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Arcadia

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  4,756 ratings  ·  868 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Faber & Faber (first published August 20th 2015)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  4,756 ratings  ·  868 reviews


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Gareth
Jul 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The most entertaining Shakespearean time-travel dystopian science fantasy spy thriller romance I've read in that terribly overcrowded genre.
Bradley
There are so many ways I'm tempted to tackle this review, nearly as many ways as there is to read this novel, and that's not a bad thing. Indeed, it means that there's so much going on in here that I simply want to keep talking about.

I could simply say that I was delighted and I can continue to be enthusiastic about this novel for ages, but instead I'll try a few of my ideas out, perhaps calling it the Cloud Atlas that's better than Cloud Atlas, pulling together a narrative that is not only
...more
Violet wells
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 21st-century
It was the teenager rather than the adult in me that enjoyed this. Arcadia is a novel brimming with mischief, a kind of YA romp featuring stories within stories, time travel and alternative universes. As I understood it, the novel is like a dramatised archaeological dig in search of the beginning and the end of its own story.

It’s not going to be easy to summarise the plot premise but here we go: Professor Henry Lytten, a retired Oxford Don, nurtures the ambition to write a novel about a rural
...more
Beverly
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Someone much smarter than I wrote this book, Iain Pears must be brilliant. This is a time travel, other worlds extravaganza. It's a complete mind scramble. It's your brain on drugs, a psychedelic romp through the past, present and future and a treatise about the otherworldliness of time itself.

The main thesis seems to be that time is a modern construct made so we can move about the world in an orderly fashion, but it's not real. The author explains it well in this passage:

"What is condemned in
...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
What an utterly delightful, absorbing tale this is, one that blends several genres, although technically it would be speculative fiction. It’s light in tone but complex in plotting, and is adventurous, romantic, suspenseful, and rich in time-honored themes…or, wait, I mean, time travel themes, with a parallel universe. Pears creates a world (or worlds) so thoroughly believable and accessible that even the convolutions aren’t difficult to follow. He builds his narrative so gradually and keenly ...more
Sarah
And read #4 was just as wonderful! I love this book :)

This book has become one of my go-to books when I really want to get lost in something. I've now read it four times and I can comfortably say that it's one of my top 5 favorite books ever.

As I was reading this I was trying to figure out what makes it so perfect for me. I love the humor, the characters, the literary references, the plot, the story… It's a perfect book. The humor is definitely my favorite. It's that wonderful understated humor
...more
Viv JM
4.5 stars.

You need to have some patience to get the most out of Arcadia. There are three separate strands in the book - a future sci-fi dystopia, a medieval-feeling fantasy world, and 1950s Oxford (not forgetting to throw in a little espionage and romance!) For at least 200 pages, the reader has no idea how the three worlds fit together. However, because the writing is so delightful, that never felt like a problem or a chore, and slowly seeing how everything fitted together was rather lovely.
...more
Sam Quixote
Sep 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
An Oxford don is writing a fantasy book like his colleagues Lewis and Tolkien did. He’s visited every now and then by a young girl who helps around the house and who discovers a magic mirror in his basement that leads into a pastoral wonderland – almost like the fantasy landscape the don is creating. A couple hundred years in the future, a psychomathematician has discovered a portal to parallel universes – which are real – and has chosen to hide in one because she's nuts. The magic mirror is ...more
Sarah
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, wondrous, delightful, enchanting! All of these words are too small and commonly used to explain my reaction to this beautiful book. It's one of the best books I've read all year and I will revisit it often. I've decided that goodreads needs to create invisible shelving because I can't properly shelve this one and keep it spoiler free.

This wonderful story starts with a man named Henry meeting with some friends and discussing the books that each wants to write. As Henry is writing his
...more
DeB MaRtEnS
5.0 stars This tops DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch! I have been in a bit of a book drought, looking back. You know, those GOOD FOR YOU books , or SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD books that you've earnestly taken on because they are about your country's history,or because they've ended up on the shelf from NetGalley, or perhaps were the latest book by a favorite author. The ones that left you with sand in your eyes and a reluctance to tax your tired close-up vision with the next grind-your-way- through book on ...more
Roger Brunyate
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-surreal
A Brilliant Juggling Act

Science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia are not normally my favorite genres. But I do respond to intelligence and culture and the ability to dance across boundaries as though they didn't exist. And I am a sucker for a good story well told with interesting characters, all guided by a strong moral sense that is not too simplistic. Iain Pears enfolded me in mystery and delight from the first few pages of his new novel and held me in his spell for five hundred more. In the
...more
Althea Ann
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've read all of Iain Pears' novels, and enjoyed all of them. I felt a little bit of trepidation about this one, after hearing that it was designed to be read in an electronic app, with alternate endings available. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...) I found the wisdom of this idea doubtful, as in general, I feel that it's the author's job to make those kind of decisions and to stick with them.

However, the printed version of the book, which I read, has no "choose your own adventure"-type
...more
Carlos
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow this book has had me going in circles all the time I been reading it , it is so complex, so well thought out that even if it was boring I would have had to the massive amount of work done by the writer, but alas this book is not boring at all, it is a massive epic of adventure, science, multi universes and different timelines all walking alongside each other without touching until they needed it to . Slow start until you familiarize with all the characters but it becomes addicting after ...more
Amanda
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars! It took me almost 3 weeks to read this which is a REALLY long time for me. This book is a complicated genre bender that takes some patience but the reward is huge. Pears has a crafted a beauty in Arcadia and when I finished I immediately wanted to start it again because I know I missed stuff.

It starts out in 1960 with a girl named Rosie who goes in a basement in search of a cat and ends up in another world. Or is it another time? There is also a scientist trying to probe that time
...more
Erika
This is the kind of book that makes you wish you could crawl into it and live there.
Liviu
finished the novel and got the Ipad App and while the main points noted below stand, I will add a few conclusion:

- book - loved the ending which was in a way the only one that made sense and kept the suspense of disbelief; less sophisticated than the main works of the author (Instance of Fingerpost, Dream of Scipio and Stone's Fall) and the quasi-solipsistic nature (universes, societies and people as bubbles, now are here, now are not, but obviously there is someone from the outside to observe
...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
People who have finished reading ‘Arcadia’ are scratching their heads trying to decide whether to describe this story as a science fiction or fantasy. I pick Fantasy, with speculative science bits. The novel is also a literary read, not that most readers will notice as the author is sneaky! Whatever it is, it is a delight! There are no bleak noir betrayals or horrific chopped body parts. It also is a novel best enjoyed as a cold read, so, if I were you, I’d try to avoid spoilers!

A new secret
...more
Judy
Reading this novel was pure fun for me.

An Oxford professor in 1962, who was a spy in WWII, turns his hand to writing a fantasy novel that contains no magic. His teenage neighbor Rosie, who feeds his cat, stumbles through a portal into another world that turns out to be the world the professor imagined for his novel. A rebellious psychomathematician from the 24th century uses her own invention to escape from her boss, returns to 1939 and becomes a temporary spy herself.

Many time periods; real
...more
Sarah
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
No idea where to start reviewing this one. It is not a book that lends itself an easy explanation. The first chapter will have you thinking Fantasy. Later chapters will have you thinking Historical Fiction. Beyond that you’ll say, “Ah! I have it. Science Fiction it is.” It’s all of them really.

The first half of this book will seem like 6 or 7 or 8 different plot threads. You’ll be questioning how in the world any of them could possibly be related. Then slowly the threads begin to come together
...more
Bettie
Description: Henry Lytten - a spy turned academic and writer - sits at his desk in Oxford in 1962, dreaming of other worlds.

He embarks on the story of Jay, an eleven-year-old boy who has grown up within the embrace of his family in a rural, peaceful world - a kind of Arcadia. But when a supernatural vision causes Jay to question the rules of his world, he is launched on a life-changing journey.

Lytten also imagines a different society, highly regulated and dominated by technology, which is trying
...more
Ellinor
With Arcadia Iain Pears is trying an experiment: He wrote a novel whith several interwoven storylines which can be read in the traditional way from cover to cover. At the same time he created an app which depicts how the storylines are interwoven and which enables the reader to read the different stories independently and switch from one to other whenever feeling like it or one two or more of the characters' meet. All of this sounds great and it was great to read and to work my way through the ...more
Ben Babcock
Every so often, you read a novel that knocks it out of the park. And I’m not talking about the obvious classics, or the much-hyped new releases that also deliver on what they promise. I’m talking about the ones that sneak up on you. Arcadia is one of the best time travel stories I’ve read in a long while—more than that, it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a year already burgeoning with good reads. Iain Pears takes what could have been a good, converging story of multiple characters and times ...more
Zulfiya
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Is it just me?

Writing is good, but it is also insipid and spiritless, academic and boring.
Too many plotlines that are interwoven, but not exactly exciting or riveting, and the author was definitely overreaching in his approach. It is not a secret that Iain Pears often uses multiple plot lines, and quite often successfully, but this time, as i mentioned earlier, he really overreached.

in addition, it was not sci fi - sci- fi, but something that is had to define - medieval historical novel, the
...more
Katie
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2016
Okay bumping this up to five stars, I have one small issue with it but it's all I can think about and it has intellectually exhausted me.
Simon
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
There are many good things about this book. With the ingenious and complex plotting that Pears is so good at, it weaves together three different worlds/stories: Oxford in the 1960s, a future dystopia, and a rural, generically medieval world the relation of which to the other two is a major element of the overarching plot. Along with this plurality of worlds is a helter-skelter mashup of genres: we get cold war spy, dystopia, whodunnit, YA-girl-bildungsroman, Robin-Hood-style fantasy, time-travel ...more
Teodora
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Bulgarian review: https://bookishipster.wordpress.com/2...

Actual rating: 4.5 stars
Such a fantastic read! 'Arcadia' was a lovely mixture of genres, which made one amazing story! I was really impressed by everything Iain Pears included in his book, the plot was so complex and breathtaking. This really is a book for everyone - it combines so many things, it's impossible not to find anything that you would enjoy. I take half a star only because at times it was a bit slow, i was having some
...more
Linda
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio, 2018
4.5 stars

Definitely a candidate for a reread. Audiobook was excellent.
Sarah Beaudette
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spring-read
It's a masterpiece.
1) This is the first book of Pears' I've read. Other reviewers thought it paled in comparison to his others, namely An Instance of the Fingerpost
2) In terms of storytelling, its three storylines/genres (Anterwold, 1960s Britain, and dystopic Mull), are each absorbing, well-plotted, woven together beautifully. The book is more than 600 pages and I wished it were longer.
3) Some hardcore fans of speculative fiction may not be as impressed as I was. Fans of David Mitchell should
...more
Sarah
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still the same opinion on my fifth time reading.

Wonderful, wondrous, delightful, enchanting! All of these words are too small and commonly used to explain my reaction to this beautiful book. It's one of the best books I've read all year and I will revisit it often. I've decided that goodreads needs to create invisible shelving because I can't properly shelve this one and keep it spoiler free.

This wonderful story starts with a man named Henry meeting with some friends and discussing the books
...more
Jane
Feb 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: folks who want to read something weird
Shelves: reviewed, library, fantasy
Intriguing and ingenious novel of mixed genres: science fiction, fantasy, espionage, even a little murder mystery and romance thrown in. I gave up on trying to understand it; I just let it flow over me and had fun with the many literary allusions. A Professor Lytten of Oxford in 1962 has written a fantasy of an ideal society--nothing new there. Bring in a dystopian future, in approximately 2200, with a "psychomathematician" [whatever that is ] who escapes to the 20th century, two guys from that ...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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“Generally speaking, our minds impose an entirely artificial order on the world. It is the only way that such an inadequate instrument as our brain can function. It cannot deal with the complexity of reality, so simplifies everything until it can, putting events into an artificial order so they can be dealt with one at a time, rather than all at once as they should be. Such a way of interpreting existence is learnt, rather in the way that our brain has to turn the images which hit our retinas upside down in order to make sense of them. Children” 6 likes
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