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3.94 / 5

"Arcadia" Summary

By Iain Pears

fantasy | 97 pages | Published in NaN

Arcadia takes us back and forth between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging over the nature of truth and time, the difference between the Classical and the Romantic temperament, and the disruptive influence of sex on our orbits in life. Focusing on the mysteries--romantic, scientific, literary--that engage the minds and hearts of characters whose passions and lives intersect across scientific planes and centuries, it is "Stoppard's richest, most ravishing comedy to date, a play of wit, intellect, language, brio and... emotion. It's like a dream of levitation: you're instantaneously aloft, soaring, banking, doing loop-the-loops and then, when you think you're about to plummet to earth, swooping to a gentle touchdown of not easily described sweetness and sorrow... Exhilarating" (Vincent Canby, The New York Times).


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

In "Arcadia" by Iain Pears, a young girl becomes entangled in a world of parallel universes and time travel.


"Arcadia" by Iain Pears is a captivating and intricate novel that weaves together multiple storylines across different time periods and realities. This thought-provoking work of fiction combines elements of science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction to create a rich and immersive reading experience. As readers delve into the pages of "Arcadia," they are taken on a journey through various interconnected worlds, each with its own set of characters, conflicts, and mysteries to unravel.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

"Arcadia" unfolds across three distinct worlds: Anterworld, a realm of magic and fantasy; 1960s Oxford, a familiar setting with a touch of mystery; and a dystopian future where technology reigns supreme. The novel's central premise revolves around a groundbreaking invention known as the Anterwold machine, which allows its users to explore and interact with different realities. As the story progresses, the characters in each world become entangled in a complex web of events that transcend time and space.


The novel's settings are as diverse as the worlds they depict. Anterworld is a realm of enchantment, inhabited by magical creatures and governed by ancient laws. In contrast, 1960s Oxford is a familiar yet enigmatic backdrop, where characters navigate the complexities of academia and interpersonal relationships. The future world presents a stark contrast, with its advanced technology and dystopian undertones.

Main Events

1Introduction to Anterworld and the Anterwold machine.
2Introduction to characters in 1960s Oxford and their connection to the machine.
3Exploration of the dystopian future and its impact on the overarching narrative.
4Convergence of storylines from different worlds, leading to unexpected revelations.
5Unraveling of the true purpose and power of the Anterwold machine.

Main Characters


  1. Raziel: A young magician with a mysterious past and a deep connection to the magic of Anterworld.
  2. Rosamund: A courageous and resourceful young woman who becomes embroiled in a quest to uncover the truth about her world.
  3. Valeria: A wise and enigmatic figure who holds knowledge crucial to the fate of Anterworld.

1960s Oxford

  1. Henry Lytten: An eccentric Oxford professor whose research leads him to the discovery of the Anterwold machine.
  2. Angela Meerson: A brilliant and independent woman entangled in the intrigue surrounding the machine and its implications.
  3. Jay: A charismatic and enigmatic character with ties to both the academic and fantastical aspects of the narrative.

Dystopian Future

  1. Talia: A resilient and determined woman navigating the perils of a technologically dominated world.
  2. Farthing: A skilled technician who becomes embroiled in a conspiracy with far-reaching consequences.
  3. Simeon: A shadowy figure with his own agenda, wielding power and influence in the future world.

Themes and Insights


  1. Interconnectedness: The novel explores the ways in which disparate worlds and characters are linked, emphasizing the idea of a greater cosmic connection.
  2. Power and Knowledge: The pursuit of knowledge and the consequences of wielding power are recurring themes that drive the narrative forward.
  3. Reality and Perception: The concept of reality and how it is perceived by different characters forms a central theme, blurring the lines between truth and illusion.


  • The novel challenges readers to contemplate the nature of existence and the interconnectedness of all things, inviting them to consider the implications of their own choices and actions.
  • Through its diverse settings and characters, "Arcadia" offers a thought-provoking exploration of human experience, perception, and the boundaries of reality.

Reader's Takeaway

"Arcadia" is a compelling and thought-provoking novel that invites readers to embark on a multi-faceted journey through time, space, and the human experience. With its richly developed characters, intricate plot, and thought-provoking themes, the book offers a captivating reading experience that will linger in the minds of readers long after they have turned the final page.


Iain Pears' "Arcadia" is a masterful work of fiction that deftly blends elements of fantasy, science fiction, and historical intrigue. Through its multi-layered narrative and richly imagined worlds, the novel captivates readers with its exploration of interconnectedness, power, and the nature of reality. With its compelling characters and thought-provoking themes, "Arcadia" is a must-read for those who seek an intellectually stimulating and immersive literary experience.

Arcadia FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'Arcadia'?

    Arcadia is a genre-bending novel that combines elements of science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction.

  2. How many timelines or worlds are there in 'Arcadia'?

    Arcadia features multiple interconnected storylines and timelines, including a dystopian future, a magical fantasy realm, and a historical setting.

  3. Is 'Arcadia' suitable for young adult readers?

    Arcadia contains complex themes and multiple storylines, making it more suitable for adult or mature readers.

  4. What are some key themes in 'Arcadia'?

    Themes in 'Arcadia' include the nature of reality, the impact of technology on society, the power of storytelling, and the interconnectedness of different worlds.

  5. Is 'Arcadia' a standalone novel or part of a series?

    'Arcadia' is a standalone novel, meaning it is not part of a series and can be read on its own.