Wednesday 28 February 2018


Finished February 14
Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd, performed by Derek Jacobl

The novel moves back and forth between the early 1700s, where Nicholas Dyer, assistant to Sir Christopher Wren is tasked with building six churches in London, many of the rebuilt following the Great Fire, and the 1980s, where the London detective Nicholas Hawksmoor is investigating a series of uncanny murders on the premises of old churches. Hawksmoor struggles to make sense of the murders, and of the lack of any clues as to the identity of the perpetrator.
He finds himself drawn back in history and in the idea of religion in his search for motive. This is a story of character and of atmosphere. We learn a lot about Dyer, about his childhood, the loss of his family, and of his struggle to survive following that. We learn of his lifelong feeling of being apart, a man who builds churches, but doesn't have faith, or at least not for what one would expect. His nature is mephitic and his churches all have a dark secret at their center.
As the book moves back and forth, I often found myself unsure which time period I was in at any given time, and this is part of the book's nature. As Hawksmoor delves into the murders, he finds the world around him less distinct, and only the elements that don't belong to his time seem real, the tramps, the urchin children playing in the streets, and the historic buildings.
I felt the historic time strongly, with more of my senses, as Ackroyd used the details of history to bring this time to life. Dyer's words are of his time, and yet they flowed for me, seeming a bit formal but not unnatural. His wording sometimes took me a moment to understand the meaning as the words were less familiar, or used in ways different than today.
I read this book to follow the David Bowie book club promoted through his son, and this was the quickest copy I could get hold of. I have now bought a physical book version, which I will read to savour the story and words, to stop and think about what is going on, and to appreciate good writing.

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