Three interlocking worlds. Four people looking for answers. But who controls the future—or the past?
In 1960s Oxford, Professor Henry Lytten is attempting to write a fantasy novel that forgoes the magic of his predecessors, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. He finds an unlikely confidante in his quick-witted, inquisitive young neighbor Rosie. One day, while chasing Lytten’s cat, Rosie encounters a doorway in his cellar. She steps through and finds herself in an idyllic, pastoral land where Storytellers are revered above all others. There she meets a young man who is about to embark on a quest of his own—and may be the one chance Rosie has of returning home. These breathtaking adventures ultimately intertwine with the story of an eccentric psychomathematician whose breakthrough discovery will affect all of these different lives and worlds.
Dazzlingly inventive and deeply satisfying, Arcadia tests the boundaries of storytelling and asks: If the past can change the future, then might the future also indelibly alter the past?
Imagine a landscape. Bathed in sunshine, sweet-smelling from the gentle shower that fell overnight then stopped as dawn broke. A dense grove of holm oak stands at the foot of a hill, damp with the drops of soft-sounding water which leave the ground moist but firm underfoot. In the distance a sliver of water, bright and glittering, reflects the brightness of the sky. The wide river is of a blue so translucent that it is almost indistinguishable from the heavens above. Only the vegetation marks the division between the fields and the range of low-lying hills beyond. It is warm now, but will be hot later on; there is not a cloud to be seen. Down by the river, there are the harvesters with their pitchforks, fanning out across the fields, some already at work.
A young boy looks down on them. They are far away, and he sees that they are talking quietly and seriously, eager to get on with a day’s work. Over his shoulder is an empty leather bag; he is going for the water which the men will soon need when the sun rises higher. The stream is cool from the hills beyond, which mark the end of their world. He does not know what lies outside it. His entire universe is here, the few villages with their rivalries, the seasonal round of crops, animals and festivities.
He is about to leave it for ever.