Saturday, 11 September 2010

Stone's Fall by Iain Pears


DATE READ: August 2010

NOTES: Stone’s Fall is a complex and multi-layered historical novel. The story begins in 1909 when a young and inexperienced journalist is engaged by Stone’s widow to find the daughter mentioned in his will. In order not to let anyone know about this illegitimate offspring Braddock assumes the role as Stone’s biographer as a cover story.

This could have been a fairly predictable story in which the child is sought while at the same time enquiring into how Stone came to die in such mysterious circumstances. But nothing is as it seems. Braddock soon realises that he is in a shadowy world in which no-one can be trusted.

The second part is narrated by Henry Cort – a shady character with vague links to the British security services – as well as an intriguing link to Stone. The third part is told by Stone himself wherein many things are explained and various ends tied up. This book is written like a 19th century novel – lots of detail but with some really vivid characters and strong plot-lines. Often two parallel stories are running together – for instance the race to avoid financial meltdown takes place alongside the search for Elizabeth’s diaries.

A massive amount of research has obviously gone into Stone’s Fall. The concept that international capital is more important than the nation state is clearly explained. When discussing the possibility of war in Europe Lefevre says “It will not be the armies fighting next time, but economies…….War and peace will be decided by the movement of capital.” And who would have thought that intelligence about coal stocks could be so crucial?

Stone is obviously a complex egocentric larger-than-life character but his wife Elizabeth is also a brilliant creation. She continually fools those around her (and the reader) as she lies, schemes and reinvents herself again and again. She is like a character from Zola.

There are enough plots in it to make up three or four books and although I felt a little overwhelmed by the mass of detail at times Stone’s Fall is a great read.

No comments: