Incredible book! This was a long read but practically every moment had me glued to the page. If you’re at all interested in the Roman Empire, Medieval Europe, World War II, the power of art, the arc of history and the functions of morality and philosophy, this book will be like a dream come true. I’m interested in all of them so you can imagine how I felt. Just one of these subjects in a novel would have had me jumping for joy. Ultimately, this is an exhilarating but pessimistic work about trying to stop different types of decline. That certainly struck a chord with me and I think it is incredibly relevant these days. Also, Pears’ creations are so convincing I frequently had to remind myself they were invented. I actually did look up Manlius Hippomanes! I knew he wasn’t real but some small part of me couldn’t accept it. The actual historical figures (Gersonides, Flavius Ricimer, Clement VI and Pablo Picasso) are vivid and entirely convincing. All in all, an amazing novel that manages to be moving, stimulating and entertaining. Doesn’t happen that often.