Ian Hislop

Disease, Decay, Death


By Peter Ackroyd

Hamish Hamilton 320pp £9.95 order from our bookshop

Towards the end of Peter Ackroyd’s first novel, The Great Fire of London, he says; ‘This is not a true story but certain things follow from other things.’ It is a good description of his latest novel, Hawksmoor, which is again concerned with an imaginative examination of the nature of cause and effect across time. Again the setting of the book is London and whereas previously the London of Dickens darkly influenced the modern city, this time it is an even older London of the early eighteenth century that reaches out to disturb the present. Indeed, Ackroyd seems to go one stage further and suggest that not only is the present saturated with the past, but somehow the past is permeated by the events of the present. The result is an extraordinary novel which takes place in both 1700 and today, yet which is not two narratives but one continuous story.

Sara Stewart


Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Thomas Hardy's phrenologist tells him he will 'lead to no good' in a new book about his life in London ,
    • John Knox said that crowning a woman was akin to putting ‘a saddle upon the back of an unruly cow’. Tell that to Catherine de'Medici...,
    • RT : I 💕💕 the Pulpit article in September's about rereading books at different times of life.,
    • Interesting thread by Aki there on inclusivity in publishing. (Read her tweets for full thread.),
    • RT : A conference about inclusivity in publishing is a fantastic idea, but doesn't £200 seem a short-sighted undermining of, well, inclusivity?,
    • Calling all friends of bulbous salutations & the elfin grot: lots of entries to have already come in, but my door’s still open...,