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Chatterton (Abacus Books) Paperback – 1 Jun 1988

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Jun 1988
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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New edition edition (1 Jun. 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034910008X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349100081
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 871,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 4 Feb. 2000
Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
The general idea of the book appealed to me, dealing with the nature of art and literature, and the question what is authentic, what is the role of copying, influencing, and fraud. I was deeply disappointed and now regret that I troubled to finish it. In my view, there are two major problems with the book, one of which depends on individual taste while the other has an element of Emperor’s New Clothes.

The book covers episodes in the lives of writers, artists, dealers and critics in three different centuries. The main characters in all three discuss and practise various degrees of fraud and plagiarism. This is potentially interesting. Unfortunately a series of examples of the practice scattered with miscellaneous comments about reality does not add up to anything but, when you look at it carefully, is actually its own form of fakery - faked insight. Here are a few examples.

"There is no reality except invisible things".
"I can endure death. It is the representation of Death I cannot bear".
"I said they were fakes. I didn't say they weren't real."

And a longer one:

-Tell me of the poets you have known.
-...Ah, poets, well there was Tookson, a crabbed old body with a pen of vitriol.
- He used to frequent the Hercules Tavern, do you know the one in Dean Street? He was there so often he became known as the pillar of Hercules.
- No, not such men as he, the real poets.
- Never you mind to say who's real and who unreal.

The most interesting part of the book is the story of Chatterton himself (which is broadly the same as the half page summary on wikipedia) and the tongue-in-cheek theory of his suicide, which is fun but not thought provoking enough to carry the novel.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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