"The Dream of Scipio", Iain Pears' first mainstream novel since "An Instance of the Fingerpost", is a work of astonishing ambition that appeals equally to the head and heart.
It is 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 - and follows the fortunes of three men.
The story of each man is woven through the narrative, linked by the classical text that gives the book its title, and by each man's love for an extraordinary woman.
The narratives intertwine seamlessly, but what joins them thematically is an ancient text - "The Dream of Scipio" - a work of neo-Platonism that poses timeless philosophical questions.
Expertly imagined and perfectly realised, "The Dream of Scipio" is a bonafide novel of ideas, a dazzling feat of storytelling, a fiction for our times.
Dense, dark, erudite and yet utterly compelling.