Customer Reviews


7 Reviews
5 star:
 (3)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and exciting
This is definitely my favourite Ackroyd book, with twists and turns of the mysterious plot catching your attention, and the carefully crafted characters making your imagination work. Beautiful imagery, deft characterisations and all loose ends intricately knotted yet tied up at the end, this is definitely a good start to Ackroyd.
Published on 4 Feb 2000

versus
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a damp squib
I was caught up in the mystery presented in the first half of the book, when Charles discovers a painting which appears to portray the boy poet-forger Chatterton decades after his supposed teenage suicide. I found it very difficult to empathise with any of the characters, though - they seemed too contrived and deliberately quirky to be real and the world they inhabited...
Published on 22 Jun 2012 by neverendings


Most Helpful First | Newest First

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and exciting, 4 Feb 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Chatterton (Paperback)
This is definitely my favourite Ackroyd book, with twists and turns of the mysterious plot catching your attention, and the carefully crafted characters making your imagination work. Beautiful imagery, deft characterisations and all loose ends intricately knotted yet tied up at the end, this is definitely a good start to Ackroyd.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Questions unresolved, 2 Jun 2010
Peter Ackroyd's Chatterton presents an enigma seen from several contrasting, some related standpoints. It seems to deal with the concept of authenticity and its consequences. In general we like things to be authentic. We like the people we meet and the possessions we own to be genuine. But what if they are not? Does it matter?

The historical basis upon which Peter Ackroyd hangs the plot of his novel is the life of Thomas Chatterton, the poet who committed suicide at the slight age of eighteen. Wallis's iconic painting of the death adorns the book's cover and its creation in the mid-nineteenth century forms a major element of the book's plot. There's also an eccentric English lady who has made money from writing and drinks gin incessantly from a teaspoon. There's an art gallery offering some works by a famous painter. They are declared fakes.

Charles Wychwood is an ailing, none too successful poet. He has a wonderful relationship with his young son, and a cooler one with his wife who has grown used to supporting her husband's apparent lack of achievement. One day Charles decides to raise a little capital in a sale-room, but then ends up blowing his money on a painting. It's a portrait, professedly of a middle-aged Chatterton. So perhaps he faked his own death so he could continue his trade anonymously. The idea captivates Charles because he knows a little of the poet's background.

Chatterton was born in the later part of the eighteenth century. He became obsessed with a series of medieval texts and started to copy their style. Thus he became the author of bogus medieval poetry, some of which he managed to publish. Unfortunately, he chose to publish not in his own name but in the name of a lost and forgotten medieval writer, thus passing off his own modern work as "genuine". Writers, like academics, tend to regard plagiarism as a capital offence. But in Chatterton's case, it wasn't plagiarism, was it? He wasn't trying to pass off another's work as his own. He was merely adopting a pen name which implied that the material came from a different era. One brings to mind the myriad of pop singers, pianists, opera stars, actors or even television personalities who have adapted new names and apparently different personas in their attempts to open doors. What price a genuine article? I recall hawkers parading through Kuta in Bali with their open wooden boxes of watches shouting, "Rolex, Cartier, genuine imitation."

But Chatterton's mimic status was uncovered. Scandal ensued and he earned no more. Penniless in a London garret he poisoned himself. Wallis painted the scene, albeit more than a generation later, it's apparent verisimilitude pure fake. We know the picture. The poet's red hair contrasts with his death pallor. An arm trails on the floor, the open window above suggesting a world beyond. But, of course, the man in the picture is a model, none other than the novelist, George Meredith. He made it into this picture of faked death only because the painter fancied his wife.

So if the painterly aspects of the canvas might be genuine, its context is mere reconstruction, perhaps invention. Does this devalue it? But what if Chatterton did not die at that young age? What if Charles Wychwood's painting of Chatterton in middle age is genuine? Did Chatterton fake more than poems? (Even if he did actually write them!)

Charles buys the painting and then visits Bristol to uncover some roots. He meets Joynson, an elderly man who speaks only in riddles. A box of the poet's memorabilia is secured. Is any of it real? Is any of it genuine?

And so the novel unfolds. What is authentic is often fake and what is genuine is often impersonated. But if a painting is worth looking at, does it matter too much if it is merely the content of a painter's imagination? Does it have to possess authenticity, even a pedigree to be an artwork? And so what if Chatterton did, or did not die? If he did, he died accused of being a fake, which he wasn't, because he did write his poetry. If he did not die, then perhaps he was a fake, because in that case we have no idea what else he did not write!

Like all Peter Ackroyd's writing, Chatterton makes the reader think. And by the way, Chatterton's characters are themselves creations of the author. They aren't genuine, are they?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars intelligent and imaginative, 8 Oct 2007
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Chatterton (Paperback)
Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770) was an English poet and forger of pseudo-medieval poetry. He died (according to some committed suicide) aged only 17. Using this as a starting point Ackroyd has given us a stunning historical detective novel, rich in language, and filled with unforgettable characters (Dickens comes to mind).

A great book, I hope you'll love it as much as I did.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ackroyd's Chatterton, 16 Aug 2011
By 
RR Waller "ISeneca" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Chatterton/00170 (Hardcover)
SAFE READING - NO SPOILERS

The tragic death under mysterious circumstances of a seventeen year-old successful forger of medieval manuscripts seems a guaranteed page-turner. Peter Ackroyd adds a few unexpected layers to weave a very interesting tale indeed in that well-constructed, understated style of his.

Another, very enjoyable novel from Ackroyd.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars This writing in ravishing., 31 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Chatterton (Paperback)
Peter Ackroyd is a marvellous writer. What beauty in language. What memorable, extravagant characters. He reminds me of Angela Carter at her breathtaking best - his quick intelligence can go anywhere. And compassion. My concern became genuinely urgent for the fate of his endearing modern-day hero. a soul too gentle for this world, with a temperament as mercurial and irresistible as the writing itself., I was won over from the start by the sheer charm of this book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dead poet mystery, 28 July 2005
This review is from: Chatterton (Paperback)
This story takes place at several points in time simultaneously. It is based on a famous portrait of the 18th century poet Chatterton, supposedly painted just after he'd committed suicide, aged 17, because of lack of recognition and poverty in London. He'd been successful (though unrecognised) in Bristol by writing in the guise of a 14th century monk.
We are with Chatterton in his boyhood in Bristol and later when he dies in London, though it transpires that he died after all by giving himself, when drunk, the wrong dose of arsenic to cure his VD.
Interfolded with all this is the story of the painter of the famous picture, who had an affair with the wife of the model he used (a bit closer to the present); and, in the present day, the story of another dying poet who finds some old papers that seem to be by Chatterton, and a mysterious portrait which seems to be of a MIDDLE-AGED Chatterton.
The book is exploring the nature of forgery and the nature of history and time. Does it matter that the picture of the dead Chatterton is not really of him, but of a model, and that for all posterity the model will be seen as the real Chatterton? And if Chatterton's writings were so like those of a 14th century monk as to be indistinguishable, are they any less valuable than the real thing? And why should the dead poet not visit the live one on his deathbed - are these things really all happening at once, though we only see bits of them?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a damp squib, 22 Jun 2012
I was caught up in the mystery presented in the first half of the book, when Charles discovers a painting which appears to portray the boy poet-forger Chatterton decades after his supposed teenage suicide. I found it very difficult to empathise with any of the characters, though - they seemed too contrived and deliberately quirky to be real and the world they inhabited also seemed a bit of a blur.

The few scenes set in historical London of Chatterton, or the later scenes with the artist Wallis are, by contrast, rich in colour and of more authentic character. It was entertaining in parts, but I found the story dragged and the denouement was a bit of a damp squib.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Chatterton
Chatterton by Peter Ackroyd (Paperback - 25 Mar 1993)
Used & New from: 0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews