Hawksmoor Paperback – May 25 2010
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
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 BooksSee all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !