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Hawksmoor Paperback – May 25 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (May 25 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014104201X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141042015
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 259 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #15,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Library Journal

Eighteenth- and 20th-century London merge as Nicholas Hawksmoor, C.I.D., investigates a series of murders whose only connection is locale18th-century churches constructed by Nicholas Dyer. Resisting modern, more systematic methods of detection, Hawksmoor interprets the historic connection between these places, old murders and new, slayers and slain, murderers and pursuers, defying time, religion, and reason itself. Despite exacting re-creation of Dyer's London and careful mirroring of 18th-century people and places in the 20th century, the novel lacks a focus that would make a point behind the wealth of detail. As it is, tantalizing symmetries, provocative discussions of architecture, debates on ancient and modern lead nowhere and frustrate the reader. Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Chillingly brilliant ... sinister and stunningly well executed Independent on Sunday Extraordinary, amazing, vivid, convincing. [Ackroyd's] view of life questions the role not just of the novel but of art and history, memory, time and much else Financial Times A novel remarkable for [its] power, ingenuity and subtlety London Review of Books

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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars 30 reviews
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not on my list Dec 26 2007
By The Ginger Man - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read more than half of the books on David Pringle's list of the best 100 fantasy books (after working through most of his SciFi list). His suggestions include classics and hidden gems and, unfortunately, a few clunkers. Hawksmoor is one of the latter.

Slow but evocative, the book moves back and forth from a time when cathedrals are being built by an architect possessed by an evil force to more contemporary times, where we see the shadow of that force's effect.

It is a good concept and well written but very slow going. It can be difficult to build a reader relationship with characters when the scene keeps shifting and Ackroyd fails to surmount that challenge here.

This is not a terrible book but it is ponderous without being either enlightening or entertaining. There are better books of fantasy and historical fiction to read. If you are not possessed of unlimited reading time, I might give this one a miss.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dark, postmodern tale Aug. 9 2016
By J Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A couple of recommendations if you chance upon this review before attempting the book. (1) if you’ve picked this up because you love a good, literary murder mystery, you may wish to reconsider; though murders occur, and there’s a detective intent upon solving them, you’ll find almost every other traditional mystery trope – clues, motives, suspects, an investigation, a denouement – unsettlingly absent here. (2) Fully half the book is written utilizing 17th century literary conventions (complete with period-appropriate erratic spelling, punctuation, and grammar) – if this doesn’t appeal to you, you’ve another reason to move on. (3) Though I tend to avoid spoilers, in this case you may actually want to start off by reading one or more of the many literary essays devoted to this book, so that you don’t waste three quarters of the book (as I did) trying desperately to make sense of incidents that, it turns out, aren’t necessarily meant to make sense – at least not in any traditional, logical way.

For Hawksmoor is, according to people smarter than me, a work of “postmodern” literature – a deliberate effort on the part of Ackroyd, the novel’s erudite author, to pervert narrative conventions, genre, character development – even chronological time. In the process, he’s created an uneven tale consisting of two parallel narratives, one of them a great deal more fully-realized and engaging than the other.

The more engaging narrative, set in late 17th century London, tells the tale of Nicholas Dyer, an architect in charge of building a series of major churches throughout the city and also, secretly, a worshiper of ancient, fearful gods who, among other things, require that each of his churches be consecrated by a human sacrifice. His professional and philosophical rival is Sir Christopher Wren, a fellow architect who, in contrast, is a champion of the Age of Reason, intent upon displacing the old gods and setting new ones – science and logic - in their place. This juxtaposition allows Ackroyd to explore both these forces – and especially the opposition between them – at some length, resulting in a series of richly imagined, often disturbing scenes and set-pieces. (Seriously, some of the scenes are presented in the form of miniature plays – more postmodern experimentation, I presume, but it works.)

Perhaps because these chapters are so rich, dark, and disturbing, the half of the narrative set in (more or less) modern-day London, featuring Det. Hawksmoor and his attempts to solve a series of murders at churches designed by Dyer, can’t help but pale in comparison. Dyer’s gradual descent into madness is satisfyingly convincing and creepy; Hawksmoors’, alas, is merely tedious.

Before too long you begin to notice that the two narratives are tied together by more than Dyer’s churches (which, by the way, are laid out in the form of a pentagon, along ancient “lay lines” of power); increasingly, incidents in the lives of Hawksmoor and Dyer parallel/intersect, the intent of which could be interpreted in any number of ways. My own interpretation is that Ackroyd means us to understand that the conflict between reason and chaos, though less visible beneath our 20th century veneer of reason, continues unabated, particularly at sites (like Dyer’s churches) where ancient evils have long festered and concentrated. This interpretation is supported, I believe, by the parallels that Ackroyd draws between his London of 1690 and his London of today – despite the passage of years, the two Londons are eerily similar, from the songs the urchins sing in the streets to the cries of the vendors selling their wares, from buildings perched uneasily upon the foundations of structures dating back to prehistory to the timeless cruelty and bullying of children, from streets still named after their ancient antecedents to the sad, desperate lives of the beggars, whores and madmen who exist at the fringes of humanity.

A provocative thesis, and when combined with Ackroyd’s gift for authentic period detail and eerie narrative, enough for me to recommend this as a worthwhile read, even if “postmodern” isn’t ordinarily my cup of tea.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book July 13 2008
By Nimue - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Hawksmoor" is actually one of my very favorite books, and certainly ranks with "Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem" as one of Ackroyd's best. Yes, it does travel back and forth in time and space, but it is not difficult for an attentive reader to follow. Ackroyd's knowledge of the esoteric underpinnings of numerology and architecture, and his vast knowledge of the history and culture of London make this book a rewarding mystery. I cannot visit a Hawksmoor church now without this book haunting my steps.

I've read it repeatedly, and taught it in an "Alternative Londons" course (with "From Hell" and "Neverwhere", two more superior London books). Students have loved it. Not, perhaps to everyone's taste, but highly recommended. If you're looking for emotional ties to characters (as the other reviewer seemed to be), look elsewhere; part of the novel's mood lies in the icy detachment of the characters in both timelines. If you're looking for a brainy adventure with more than a touch of the creepy supernatural, this is a book for you.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but still a macabre tour-de-force. Jan. 3 2003
By TM - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Peter Ackroyd enjoys a deserved reputation as the foremost contemporary interpretor and historian of London, especially the city's hidden and arcane aspects. As a painter of London's underbelly he is unquestionably Dickens's heir. His feeling for the city as an almost living entity, oppressive in the accumulated weight of its sprawling physical structure and the mass of lives that have passed through it, and frequently been crushed in the process, is one shared probably more or less conciously by most Londoners. In such an environment, where the most modern buildings can stand on a street pattern centuries old, the present can never entirely cut itself free from the past. This is Ackroyd's main theme, brought to life with chilling brilliance in this story of murder and superstition in the 17th century sounding a physical echo in a series of slayings in the 20th. Be aware that this is not a simple murder mystery in period costume. The narrative is poetic and allusive with much, especially the ending, left for the reader to interpret. It is not wholly succesful in the intertwining of past and present. Ackroyd's 16th century London fizzes with life, the characters and the city brilliantly conjured (Ackroyd has a skilful ability to write in a way that is actually less archaic than it feels when caught up in the narrative flow). By contrast, he fails to breathe much life into the modern day scenes and characters. This may be partly an intentional contrast, but either way these scenes are rather flat. Nonetheless, the book is hugely enjoyable. The demonical architect Nicholas Dyer (the 20th c. detective is the Hawksmoor of the title) is a great creation, and the dark world he inhabits stands with the classics of the literature of the macabre and supernatural. It will certainly impell a London (or London bound) reader to explore the churches built by the historical Hawksmoor with new eyes, as however fantastical the story, the geography and architectural details are completely accurate. I remember well seeing tramps descend into the shelter in the understory of Christchurch Spitalfields.
The structurally flawless (and very chilling) 'Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem', which inhabits the London of Jack the Ripper and the heyday of the Music Hall, is also highly recommended.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In praise of Hawksmoor! Sept. 14 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Unlike some readers who have reviewed this work, I found it utterly compelling. The atmosphere of old London was masterfully evoked and the psychology of the principal characters was particularly well wrought. That Nicholas Dyer was a master of the "Magick Arts" but was beset by paranoia and depression, let alone his physical ills, made him an entirely believable person; very different from the usual fictional mage who is master of everything. Likewise, Hawksmoor's mental disorder and gradually loosening grip on his reality made for a sadly credible character.
I found the 18th century style of writing to be highly readable with a minimum of effort, yet it added greatly to the creation of the atmosphere of the historical period. I think that the author must have devoted a great deal of careful attention to this aspect of the novel; as he must also have done to his researches into the churches and geography of old London.
A dark and scary story; and I am slightly spooked that I found my copy at a second hand stall near the Thames just after a walk that had taken me unknowingly past St. Mary Woolnoth's church and a number of other locations in the book !