Customer Reviews


12 Reviews
5 star:
 (8)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:
 (3)
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


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sense on sensibility
In this book, Ackroyd seeks to do something very ambitious - namely, to identify the nature of the English artistic sensibility. He is not trying to define the 'Englishness' of English art (we are, as he says, a hybrid culture after all). Ackroyd is more interested in exploring the idea of the 'genius loci' (the spirit of place). Accordingly, artistic patterns and...
Published on 27 April 2008 by Jon Chambers

versus
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable page turner, but doesn't bear close scrutiny
Ackroyd has achieved wide popular appeal with his literate brand of historical fiction so you would expect this to be a lively, readable and interesting run through this huge subject -and it is. The short chapters, each neatly encapsulating an often weighty idea, make it a real page turner packed with fascinating observations. Unfortunately, scholarly it is not. Ackroyd...
Published on 17 July 2004


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable page turner, but doesn't bear close scrutiny, 17 July 2004
By A Customer
Ackroyd has achieved wide popular appeal with his literate brand of historical fiction so you would expect this to be a lively, readable and interesting run through this huge subject -and it is. The short chapters, each neatly encapsulating an often weighty idea, make it a real page turner packed with fascinating observations. Unfortunately, scholarly it is not. Ackroyd makes great claims for the seamless progression of cultural motifs unique to the English, and yet never demonstrates they ARE unique by comparisons with other countries. Are we, for example, to believe the study of German history over the centuries has been a disspasionate scholarly exercise that does not seek to construct national myth and identity, as have the English? Of course not! He is also very selective with his evidence: often a single 20th century example is cited to demonstrate that a certain preoccupation of the Saxon mind is alive and well. Perhaps much of what he says on literature is valid despite the rather hurried approach and he clearly has great passion for the subject. He falls down, however, on painting and music which are given scarce coverage while the architecture sections are full of inaccuracies and misconceptions (possibly a result of the very superficial reading the bibliography suggests) as is his one chapter on garden design. Having said all this, its immensely enjoyable and gives much food for thought.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sense on sensibility, 27 April 2008
By 
Jon Chambers (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In this book, Ackroyd seeks to do something very ambitious - namely, to identify the nature of the English artistic sensibility. He is not trying to define the 'Englishness' of English art (we are, as he says, a hybrid culture after all). Ackroyd is more interested in exploring the idea of the 'genius loci' (the spirit of place). Accordingly, artistic patterns and repetitions recur, sometimes centuries apart, with no obvious or conscious link to explain the parallels. This is terrain, of course, that Ackroyd has already charted to haunting effect in his novel, Hawksmoor.

But is it reasonable to talk about distinctively English imaginative traits? Ackroyd thinks so, and enumerates some of them: a love of antiquity; a tendency to melancholy; a habit of translating and borrowing from abroad; an appetite for heterogeneity and variety; a love of flat and intricate surface design; a preference for the practical over the theoretical; a distrust of intellectualism; and so on.

Albion doesn't pretend to be a work of scholarship. As with Shakespeare: the Biography, the book provides just so many footnotes as are needed to lend his ideas substance. In any case, what Ackroyd is good at here is making observations and connections, rather than providing absolute, forensic proof. Occasionally, his arguments aren't at all convincing - the idea that the English love of miniature painting might be explained by the fact that 'those who live on a small island take a delight in small things' is flimsy. But in making the link between the illuminators of medieval manuscripts, Nicholas Hillyard and the C17 school of limners, Ackroyd is absorbing. As elsewhere in his work, we sense a deep affinity with those he writes about. After praising the philosopher John Locke's gift of finding a homely metaphor to help make his point and avoid 'so much useless dispute and noise in the world' (from 'An Essay on Understanding'), Ackroyd pulls an equally down to earth comparison out of the hat: Locke's dislike of noise and dispute is 'the philosophical equivalent of not making a scene in a restaurant' - an 'innately English' dislike.

Eclectic and speculative, rather than rigorous or academic, the real virtue of Albion is its capacity to connect across genres as well as time. It is a thought-provoking exploration of the English artistic impulse.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining as ever, 20 Dec. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Albion - the Origins of the English Imagination (Hardcover)
I'm not much of areader of pop history but I love Peter Ackroyd. He is a novelist who writes like a history professor and an historian who writes like a novelist. I must admit I mostly prefer his non-fiction. I first came across him when he was recommending Michael Moorcock's work in a review in the Sunday Times and it's odd how the two men resonate so closely.
Moorcock wrote about Albion and Doctor Dee, British musical hall and Mother London and all these themes are taken up by Ackroyd, whose sympathy with the great visionaries (and Moorcock is without doubt one of the great English visionaries) is well known. After reading Albion I found myself reaching for Moorcock's Gloriana again (this is set in a Platonic London, capital of Albion) and knowing the two men to be friends was fascinated to see how one takes a particular ball and runs with it, throwing it back to the other. If you enjoyed Albion, which is a fanciful, fantastic history of Old England, you'll certainly love Gloriana and vice versa. Yes, there is a modern school of English letters and Ackroyd, Iain Sinclair, Alan Wall,
M.J.Harrison and a few others are at the core of it. If you don't believe me, try them for yourself!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars A cornucopia of enjoyments - Discovery and Delight, 7 Sept. 2013
By 
Christopher H (Keilor, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
How to describe this extraordinary book? Crammed with discoveries and delights, this is very much a book that begs you invent your own course, jumping back and forth between sections, not reading from start to finish. Peter Ackroyd's "Albion" is a rich lively cornucopia of enjoyments. The author guides us through what he has come to enjoy, showing how he enjoys and deeply appreciates, sharing his love of English writing from before the word `english' was even coined. This is criticism as it most enticing and finest, an individual imagination giving his escorted tour of what he values. And along the way we come to share in that love.

The nearest comparison to this book I can think of is Clive James's Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time, because like that remarkable work it is more a lengthy collection of essays, thoughts and musings that lead one on almost countless mental journeys into so many aspects of the English literary imagination. And yes, the book may be organised historically, and the essays are presented as successive "chapters". But they are closer to those chapters in Robert Hughes's The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change, for they are really explorations of a theme, showing how a motif, idea or disposition will be manifested in different works or authors.

To read "Albion" as literary history is the misconstrue the book: it is literary criticism and appreciation, and of a very high order, too.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Perferct for my English course, 23 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am a university student in Belgium and this year we are looking and trying to understand literature in the UK from the Middle Ages to the Modern Times.I love this book. It is simple and I enjoy reading it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars interesting and informative, 2 July 2013
By 
Ms. H. Levan (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As always ,Peter Ackroyd provides the reader with a thought provoking and informative read. Thoroughly recommended for anyone interested in England and the English!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A continuing delight, 3 Sept. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Albion - the Origins of the English Imagination (Hardcover)
I haven't even finished this book yet, and I already want to rave about it. I felt a little sheepish and shamefaced buying a book called Albion, because of its nationalistic implications, and yes, you do have to be careful with this sort of stuff. (A long time since I'd come across the word without its usual companion, Perfidious!)
What persuaded me was the use of the word 'imagination' on the cover, and a strange dyslexic shift which turned Albion into Alboin, which means 'elf-friend', and is a character in a tale by that other great anachronist, JRR Tolkien.
Fluidity is the key, both in the pursuit of a so-called national spirit, and in the letting go of any concrete definition even when you think you've found it. This is already coming through very strongly as I progress with the book, and it's important to go with Ackroyd's own refusal to be pinned down, for this is the essence of the imaginative life.
As well as the wide-ranging scholarship and fidelity to the discipline of imagination, another more incidental delight is the appearance of odd bits of poetry in Ackroyd's own prose. In Chapter One, entitled "The Tree" he caught me with a quickened heartbeat in the first paragraph:
"...as if the landscape propelled them into speech."
And in chapter 11, we see some of the beloved alliteration coming out (unbidden?):
"There is a curious consonance here of climate and territory."
My Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer tells me that Aelfric, translated a "little book into the English language on that art of letters, which is called grammatica"
Well, herein lies the grammar of the heart of the land.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars heavy going!, 1 Mar. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Albion - the Origins of the English Imagination (Hardcover)
I wish I'd chosen Simon Sharma I'm afraid! This book is very heavy going for the non academic historian. I managed to get a quarter of the way through it though, although the historical evidence for its presumptions were a little weak. I felt that the reference to it being particular to the English Imagination, as opposed to european, was woolly. I dont think I will reach the middle let alone the end, as continuity and captivation were poor....sorry, obviously a lot of research went into it, and perhaps an academic historian may find it more useful.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 1 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Another great book from one of our most amazing living authors.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars It's a struggle to read, 26 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Very wordy but is factual and accurate
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Albion - the Origins of the English Imagination
Albion - the Origins of the English Imagination by Peter Ackroyd (Hardcover - 3 Oct. 2002)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews