The Skull and the Nightingale
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The Skull and the Nightingale

2.84 of 5 stars 2.84  ·  rating details  ·  165 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Michael Irwin’s The Skull and the Nightingale is a chilling and deliciously dark, literary novel of manipulation and sex, intrigue and seduction, set in 18th-century England.

When Richard Fenwick returns to London, his wealthy godfather, James Gilbert, has an unexpected proposition. Gilbert has led a sedate life in Worcestershire, but feels the urge to experience, even vica...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by William Morrow (first published June 1st 2013)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,215)
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karen
this book is a little cyrano, a little frankenstein, and a little les liaisons dangereuses.

it's a dirrrrty book about the seedy underbelly of 18th century england we all love so much, complete with costumed fumblings, indecorous passions, gentility masking bestial impulses, and letters. lots of letters.

richard has just returned from his grand tour, which i'm sure you know is like rumspringa for the english leisure class, and he returns to london unsure of his future but full of ambition. he had...more
Charlie
The Skull and the Nightingale captured my attention when it claimed that it fell in tradition with Liaisons Dangereuses and echoed The Crimson Petal and the White, which just happens to be one of my favorite novels of all time. I must say, with such grand references, I opened the book with high expectations. If I had a red pen, I would go back and cross out all literary comparisons along with the words, 'chilling,' 'deliciously dark,' and 'exciting.' Thus, leaving the not so captivating blurb of...more
Amanda
While on the whole, this novel was provocative and enticing, I felt somewhat disappointed by the end result. I admired the level of writing and the depth of some characters, but it was altogether a slow read and I was not emotionally attached to anyone or anything contained therein. I felt no sympathy whatsoever for the main character, and ultimately felt that he got what he deserved in the end. Having said that, however, I do feel that the novel touches upon interesting topics of conversation a...more
Mindy
Actual Rating = 3.5 stars

For those looking for action, this is not the book for you. This is neither a Thriller or Erotica. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. I'm sure my infatuation with England in the 18th century has something to do with it. I felt transported back to London in the 1760's. Much of the book is correspondence between Richard Fenwick and his godfather. My only complaint is that sometimes these discussions would be a bit tedious.
Barb
Titillating, Saucy and Warped

Richard Fenwick, under the patronage of his wealthy godfather, James Gilbert, has returned to England after taking a Grand Tour of Europe. Without his own funds or any other family means he hopes to become his godfather's heir. And so, he accepts Mr. Gilbert's proposal to participate in an unusual undertaking wherein Richard will enjoy a variety of experiences, that Gilbert has never been brave enough to participate in, then describe them in detail to his godfather.

A...more
Bgmcleod
If I could give less stars I would, this is one of the stupidest books I have ever read. The premise is preposterous. In 1760, London, Richard, a young man returns from a European tour. He is an orphan, and has been raised by a remote godfather. His godfather now contacts him, and give him lots of money to "experience" all that London has to offer and to write him (the godfather) all about them so he can live them vicariously. Soon it becomes clear that the godfather wants Richard to engage in a...more
Susan
It is the early 1760's and a young man, Richard Fenwick, is returning from two years abroad on the Grand Tour. An orphan, he is reliant on his wealthy godfather, Mr James Gilbert, to finance his future. When called to that formidable old gentleman's estate, he wonders whether he will propse a career or possibly, hopefully, make him his heir and begin to teach him about being a landowner. Instead, surprisingly, Mr Gilbert proposes something quite different. Admitting that he has regrets about mis...more
Melissa
I'm not quite sure what to think. I was fairly sure I knew how the novel would end...but then it did something different. Quite a bit different. And I haven't decided if I like it or not - and it came down to the very last page.

The Skull and the Nightingale was pitched to me because I liked Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and Les Liaisons Dangereuses and it was similar to The Crimson Petal and the White. And there are a lot of similarities in time period and tone. At one point in the novel almo...more
Shoshana
Big meh.

Probably stuck with it for the historical aspect, and a slight "where is this going to go" curiosity. And because I have a thing for books with godfathers. I didn't feel there was sufficient character resolution though.
Chelsea
This book just felt very pointless. I read it diligently for 3/4 of the way through but skimmed the last hundred and something pages. It wasn't terrible but I felt like it was a complete waste of time.
notyourmonkey
Blar. I'm tired of protagonists being all rapey in the guise of being "edgy." If I'm going to read about an amoral, detached investigator of human nature, I don't care to waste my time with this self-important, did he mention he's pretty? because he knows he's soooo pretty, insufferable blowhard. When your exploration of the dark sides of humanity are pretty much all about this dude sees women as chattel whose value is determinable by their level of fuckability, even if that level is unexpectedl...more
Ardra
I received 3 First Reads Giveaway books on the same day, and selected this one to read first. I would not have felt compelled to finish reading it if I didn't like it, but this book completely held my interest all the way through. This is not a typical beach read, but that's what it became for me since my vacation came in the middle of reading this book, and I did not want to set it aside for something lighter.

This book had a slow burn throughout. It is not a fast paced plot, but rather a slow o...more
Sheila
On the surface, this book is about sex and writing letters (to paraphrase the narrator, who said the same thing but in cruder terms). It also has one of my favorite things--an unreliable narrator. However, there's a deeper level to this book--it's actually about character and morality and how we become what we're nurtured to become. This reminds me of Sarah Waters (specifically Tipping the Velvet, but without the twists and turns of Waters' books). This book is deceptively slow and simple. What...more
Whitney
The Skull and the Nightingale is historical fiction, rather than a mystery story as the cover image may imply. I absolutely fell in love with the eighteenth-century writing style employed by Michael Irwin. It was extraordinarily successful at creating the ambiance of the time. The day to day descriptions of the life of a London man about town were completely engaging.

The deeper aspects of the story wrestled with morality and personal choice. As Richard Fenwick is trapped by circumstances to be a...more
Alan
Nov 27, 2013 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: The dissolute
Recommended to Alan by: A misshelving
Richard Fenwick, an Englishman of but few years, lately returned from a Grand Tour of the Continent, is an orphan whose powerful but aloof patron, Mr. Gilbert, has sent him to London, that sprawling metropolis of a full half-million people in this Year of Our Lord 1761, with but a single project—to conquer the City by pen and pizzle (or pintle, as this novel repeatedly has it). Gilbert has provided Fenwick with lodgings and an income sufficient to dress, feed and entertain himself as a young gen...more
Kathryn
It's England in the early 1760s and Richard Fenwick has just returned from the Grand Tour of Europe. Despite being an orphan, he's been fortunate enough to have been helped through life to date by his godfather, James Gilbert, who lives a quiet life on his estate in Worcestershire with only a few neighbours dependant on his support for company. Richard's return to London leaves him at a crossroads in his life: is he now to be named as his godfather's heir or merely left to secure a future for hi...more
Elizabeth
I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads giveaway and I must say, it was not what I expected at all. The Skull and the Nightingale tells the story of Richard Fenwick, a young man who has recently returned to England after spending some time traveling abroad, the bill for which was being paid by Fenwick's godfather. Fenwick's godfather, Mr. Gilbert, is the closest he has to family and he hopes to stay in his good graces in hopes of being named heir to his large estate. What he do...more
Kathleen
It is eighteenth century London and a young man, Richard Fenwick, has just returned from a two year trip touring Europe all paid for by his Godfather, Mr. Gilbert,whom he hardly knows. Being an orphan, the Godfather has paid for his education and the trip. Now returned, he is unsure of what his future will be. He is summoned to his godfather's house in the country to discuss the future. After several days, Gilbert proposes an arrangement that will allow him to experience the thrills of youth tha...more
Laura
A little disappointing, to be honest: the psychological parts of this didn't quite rise to the level that the start of the book promised. Richard Fenwick, orphan dependent on the goodwill of his godfather, has just returned to London following a Grand Tour. Wondering what's next, he's asked (by the godfather) to stay in a boarding house and then to visit his godfather's country estate. While there, he's given his "mission" - to experience life, specifically the seedy, degraded side, and report b...more
Debra
**Received from Goodreads First reads giveaway.

I give this book 3.5 stars. This book is about Richard Fenwick, a young man who is financially cared for by his Godfather, James Gilbert, after his parents have passed away. Upon returning from an extended trip, his wealthy Godfather has a proposition - to allow him to live vicariously through him. Mr. Fenwick is to describe to him what he does and experiences in London - especially things that have to deal with encounters with women. Mr. Fenwick, h...more
Rachael Key
I won an advanced reader copy through a "goodreads giveaway"


The Skull and The Nightingale is based in eighteenth century London and was written very well, It really gets you sucked into that time period and its like you are in the shoes of the main character Richard Fenwicks and his thoughts as he sees things throughout the book.

I enjoyed this book very much, It was very well written, which is sometimes hard to find in books these days. It was a very hard book to put down at night, It always k...more
Carla
I had high hopes for this book and unfortunately it didn't really deliver. The cover write-up seems to promise a rollicking look at 18th century London society with a touch of the Gothic. Although the author uses the epistolary format as his narrative device, the letters provided don't accelerate the plot, rather they seem more of an encumbrance. Even his main character mentions that he 'has to sit down and spend a day composing' - pure drugdery from the sound of it! Clarissa is mentioned in man...more
Becky
well, it started slow, picked up so much in the middle, and fizzled out. I did like it, it was an interesting commentary on life of that time. But the questions asked are not just ones for that time. It really becomes a question of morality, what will people do for money and for love. there were times that I felt the narrative went on two long. In some ways I wanted the story to be told only in letters whether it was letters to self etc because while the narrative was the true story, it was inte...more
Paul Lunger
Michael Irwin's "The Skull and the Nightingale" is the story of Richard Fenwick who essentially sets out to explore himself & the world around him via various sexual exploits amongst other things. The book is a different type of read between the letters between the various characters & the periodic dialogue throughout. This is not the easiest of books to read, but even from it's darker moments to the brighter ones, Irwin keeps you interested enough to keep following it in order to see ju...more
William
I was not impressed. Why I finished it I don't know. Predictable and Dull. Full of unnecessary rambling. Not nearly as decadent as the descriptions on the fly leafs would hint. In fact rather staid!
Vera Maslow
I received and ARC copy of this book from a goodreads first reads giveaway.
The writing style was good and interesting. I liked the use of letters throughout the book and the different sides to the protagonist.
The pace of the book was too slow. It was overly wordy at times. The book was a bit difficult to get through because of these things. If the pace were picked up a bit and the words cut down some this would have been more enjoyable. I don't feel like I was really getting drawn in enough to...more
Michael Ritchie
This book is a victim of its marketing. It's packaged as a Victorian-era erotic thriller, but it's not a thriller by any means (though there is one death) and it's not particularly erotic, though there is one graphic sex scene and one of the plotlines involves the narrator trying to arrange to have an affair with a married woman. It's about a young man whose guardian pays him to go to London to live the high life and report back to the guardian so he can live vicariously through the young man. S...more
Heather Gayton
I really enjoyed the idea of this book and parts of its execution. However, I struggled with the writing and details of the story line. The end was also a disappointment. :/ ah well.
Janice
Apr 21, 2014 Janice added it
Shelves: ditched
I'm about 75 pages into this book and I'm not sure I'm going to finish it. The description of the story is listed as:
Michael Irwin’s The Skull and the Nightingale is a chilling and deliciously dark, literary novel of manipulation and sex, intrigue and seduction, set in 18th-century England.
Hey, what's not to like? However, I'm not sure it's living up to it's description. There are so many letters and I'm not enjoying reading them at this point. We'll see....nope- moved on to a "good" book.
E
I just finished this beautiful read. This is my favorite book, ever, at this moment. Ignore all the bad reviews. If you like 18th century style prose, handsome satyrs, the English countryside, England in the 18th century, masquerade balls, true 18th century dialogue between English country gentlemen in pubs, songs by said gentlemen, odd characters from 18th century London, blushing vixens, and peeks into the boudoirs of these people, then by all means read this delicious book.
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