"Julien Barneuve dies at 3:28 on the afternoon of August 18, 1943."That is the first sentence of The Dream of Scipio. It is my first book by Iain Pears. Luckily, I have another one waiting on my shelves. This book was such a wonderful surprise and I think he will be one of my favourite authors in the future. 'The Washington Post' has put it right to the core: "A thrilling journey through history, into the human heart and soul."
We follow three men and their beloved through history and it takes place in France. In the 5th century we meet Manlius Hippomanes and his beloved Sophia. In the 14th century Olivier de Noyen and his beloved Rebecca and in the 20th century Julien Barneuve and his beloved Julia. Julien is an historian and is researching the other two. Olivier is the middle man, already having had an interest in old manuscripts in the 14th century, his researched gives Julien the story of Manlius. It is only in the very last stage of his life, that Julien realises the real consequences of the life and actions of Olivier. Here an ancient murder mystery is part of the story.
"And Julien returned to his books, turning in these years to the subject that had been in the back of his mind for so long: to describe the resilience of civilization, its enormous strength, the way that even when near death it could revive and regrow. Bringing its benefits to mankind once more."The novel takes up the eternal story of what civilisation is. Who are the civilised people? We or the others? What actions are to be called civilised? What is morally and ethically correct? Is it ethically correct to sacrifice one person to save another? This story covers big questions on these matters and it is heartbreaking at times. It also shows that it does not matter in which century you are living. In time of war our decisions and actions change. We go through emotions we could not even dream of and have to act in ways we could never imagine.