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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Unlikable characters"...
Yes, most of the characters in British author Peter Ackroyd's new novel, "Three Brothers" are unlikable. BUT, they're not "uninteresting". And that interestingness, along with the inclusion of city of London as almost a character of its own, makes "Three Brothers" worth reading.

Ackroyd begins his story of three brothers, all born on May...
Published 4 months ago by Jill Meyer

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A sinuous web of skullduggery, corruption, blackmail and violence
Peter Ackroyd must be one of the most prolific writers around at the moment. he has written a host of literary biographies, several books about London, a score of novels and he is currently writing a multi-volume series on the History of England. Where does he find the time? If this novel is anything to go by, he isn't sacrificing quality in favour of quantity...
Published 9 months ago by James Brydon


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A sinuous web of skullduggery, corruption, blackmail and violence, 20 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Three Brothers (Kindle Edition)
Peter Ackroyd must be one of the most prolific writers around at the moment. he has written a host of literary biographies, several books about London, a score of novels and he is currently writing a multi-volume series on the History of England. Where does he find the time? If this novel is anything to go by, he isn't sacrificing quality in favour of quantity.

Though I enjoyed "Hawksmoor" and "Chatterton" more than twenty years ago, I have struggled with many of his previous novels. However, having read some favourable reviews in the literary press I decided to have a punt on this one, and was certainly rewarded.

No prizes for guessing that it tells the story of three brothers, though interesting all three are born at the same time on the same date in three successive years, though this does not serve to render them particularly close. While they are still very young their mother just disappears, leaving them to be brought up by their laconic father, Philip who, as a novelist manque, drifts through life working for years as a night watchman before becoming a long distance lorry driver.

The three boys follow different paths at school. Harry, the eldest, is a popular and capable boy, who leaves to take up a post as messenger for the local newspaper, and being a n opportunist, gradually works his way up to become a reporter. Daniel, the middle of the three, is an academic prodigy who works hard and secures a scholarship to Cambridge where he stays on to complete postgraduate courses before becoming a Fellow of his college. Sam, the youngest, just drifts through life, largely disengaged from the world around him.

Although the three boys go along completely different paths, their lives prove to be connected through a network of mutual friends and colleagues, and Ackroyd weaves a sinuous web of skullduggery, corruption, blackmail and violence, set against the shifting political context of Britain in the 1960s and 1970s.

Very engaging!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars London: louche living in the 1960s, 26 Jan 2014
This review is from: Three Brothers (Hardcover)
Transport yourself back to London of the 1960s in the capable hands of author Peter Ackroyd. This is the story of three brothers, Harry, Daniel and Sam who are abandoned by their Mother in their early years and are dragged up by their Father, who essentially absents himself from home, both physically and emotionally, by becoming a lorry driver.

As they mature into adult young men, each has his story to tell, and each dovetails with the lives of other Londoners - and it is these patterns of association linking the people of the city that Ackroyd revisits over and over again. A hugely populated city, yet a very small stage, where lives diverge, cross and come together alarmingly frequently. And all the while the non tangible, ethereal ghosts of historical footsteps patter around the prose. The ghosts of past lives serve to threaten or to reassure as life continues. People have to make the best of their lives, from the larger than life characters to those who keep the wheels of the city turning. His prose is rich in imagery and pathos.

This is a story set in the real life London of Harold Wilson, Gin and Its, Tizer, Christine Keeler, The Kray Twins and Babycham and the notorious landlord Peter Rachman, who exploited and terrorised his tenants. And there is a character in the book who can only be based on this notoriously sadistic and cruel real-life person. Generally, a thinly drawn veil separates the fictional characters from the real-life characters who populated London in the Swinging 60s. Needless to say it wasn't all about fashionable Carnaby Street, it was also grim reality in the slums. Much of London was still derelict and run down, recovering from WW2 and as the flyleaf on our copy states, Acroyd sets out his well crafted story again the backdrop of London, 'from bustling, cut-throat Fleet Street to hallowed London publishing houses, from the wealth and corruption of Chelsea to the smoky shadows of Limehouse and Hackney, this is an exploration of the city, peering down its streets, riding on its underground, and drinking in its pubs and clubs.'

This is certainly a work of fiction that will bring the era of the Swinging (and not so Swinging 60s) in London to crisp and, at times, unflattering life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Unlikable characters"..., 5 Mar 2014
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Three Brothers (Kindle Edition)
Yes, most of the characters in British author Peter Ackroyd's new novel, "Three Brothers" are unlikable. BUT, they're not "uninteresting". And that interestingness, along with the inclusion of city of London as almost a character of its own, makes "Three Brothers" worth reading.

Ackroyd begins his story of three brothers, all born on May 6th, at noon, in succeeding years in the late 1940's WW2 was over, but London was adjusting to the peace, as it adjusted to the war in the earlier years. The brothers' mother, Sally (in my estimation the weakest of the main characters) disappeared one day from their lives and they were raised by their father, a long-distance lorry driver. The brothers went their separate ways early on, yet they find themselves reunited - along with their mother - in the 1960's, 70's, and 80's - in plot devises that often smack of magical realism. Harry, the oldest, begins a climb up the journalism ladder and Daniel, the middle son, gets a scholarship to Clare College at Cambridge and becomes a writer and a teacher. Sam, the youngest, goes his own way, and that way includes his doing a bit of everything to keep alive.

Conventional wisdom - oh, that "wisdom" we all hope exists - would say that the three brothers raised in fairly dismal council housing surroundings, would be emotionally close and try to help each other in life. Not here, not these three brothers. They all seem to disdain and actively dislike each other. Daniel is gay and quite a bit of the story relates in some way to Daniel's friends and partners. Not that he was able to become close to anyone, except perhaps Sparkler, a rent boy and petty thief. Sparkler also has connections to the other brothers, but they are not disclosed til the end. Sparkler is dying, maybe, from what seems to be a rare disease. I THINK, but am not sure, that the disease is AIDS, but I'm not sure. Certainly the book's timing could take the story up til the early 1980's, but nothing seems to be spelled out.

This is also a book of secrets. Everyone in the story has 'em. Some are interesting, but most, like most people's secrets, are not. For the reader, maybe the most difficult thing about the book is keeping up with the secrets and the problems they pose when they're exposed.

This is an interesting novel. It's not long - 244 pages in the galley version I read - but worth reading to explore life and lives in London in the period. Ackroyd ends the book somewhat abruptly, though, which may let the reader provide his own ending to the book.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfying, 7 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Three Brothers (Kindle Edition)
For me, this is ultimately an unsatisfying book. It is a strange story of 3 brothers from a broken family, with a ghostly, psychic element and written in quintessential Ackroyd style. There are some great vignettes of 1950s and 60s London but the storylines are sketchy, incomplete, and tend to raise more questions than they answer. Some of the lesser characters rely heavily on stereotypes and situations often feel manufactured rather than arising naturally. It is a good read, and a page-turner, but the end is abrupt and left me wondering "What on earth was all that about?" Ackroyd's style is very suitable for sagas covering hundreds of years, but adapts less well to more intimate situations.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Weird -and very occasionally wonderful, 18 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Three Brothers (Kindle Edition)
I found this a strange book. It contains flashes of brilliance and is a vivid portrait of aspects of London life. But none of the characters are sympathetic or attractive, with the exception of Sparkler, who is a sort of gay artful dodger. And the three brothers remained for me very two dimensional. Ackroyd brings in quite a lot of psychic phenomena, of no real credibility and I was left with the impression of a notebook of ideas which had been pasted together into a fundamentally unsatisfactory novel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Stark contrasts, 30 May 2014
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This review is from: Three Brothers (Hardcover)
I found "Three Brothers" disappointing; Ackroyd's good ear for conversation is wasted when used for the mouths of his rather contrived characters who are forced by history and the author's vision into situations like medieval church carvings that are contorted to fit into their containing surroundings. Echoes of past times blending with and affecting the present is a recurrent theme, but whether this is a mental state or a "reality" is unresolved and doesn't work as well as in Ackroyd's earlier success, "Hawksmoor". For a much more vibrant version of the fictionalised lowlife/highlife blend of England in the 1950s/1960s, read Jake Arnott's "The Long Firm".
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2.0 out of 5 stars Another formulaic book, 15 May 2014
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Used to love his novels but now they are so formulaic one could almost write them for him. I think he stretches his canvas too tight but I remain a loyal fan.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Ackroyd, 15 Oct 2013
By 
C. A. Sims - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Three Brothers (Hardcover)
Having read Ackroyd's superb writing on London, The Thames, Shakespeare and others, I was expecting the same standard of excellence in a novel. I found it to be a mess and occasionally cringed at the clichés. There were one or two paragraphs where his brilliance showed through, but they failed to compensate for the fragmented story line. Very disappointing.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 15 Nov 2013
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I felt that this was an unfinished piece of work where the abrupt ending left much to be desired. The supernatural aspects ultimately added nothing to the plot and seemed to have been bolted on for the sake of it. It seemed that if this book was half as long again we might have got a complete novel.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stick to non fiction Peter!, 18 Feb 2014
By 
Peter Burke (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Three Brothers (Kindle Edition)
Not bad but a bit flat and simplistic - the three brother each occupying a definite, one dimensional space in the narrative.
His histories of London are better.
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Three Brothers
Three Brothers by Peter Ackroyd (Hardcover - 3 Oct 2013)
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