Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating


3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  939 ratings  ·  38 reviews
In this remarkable detective novel Peter Ackroyd investigates the death of Thomas Chatterton, the eighteenth-century poet-forger and genius, whose life ended under mysterious circumstances. Fusing themes of illusion and imagination, delusion and dreams, he weaves back and forth between three centuries, introducing a blazing cast of Dickensian eccentrics and rogues, from th...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published 1993 by Penguin Books (first published 1987)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Peter Pan by J.M. BarrieThe Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix PotterThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. LewisAmadeus by Peter ShafferThe Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
For Pete's Sake ...
41st out of 314 books — 36 voters
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodNever Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroThe Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time by Mark HaddonAtonement by Ian McEwanCloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Non-Winners of the Man Booker
78th out of 190 books — 129 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,726)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Aug 19, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who regard fraud as an art form
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: previous Ackroyd outings
Every so often I like to have a little Peter Ackroyd love-in. I'll get my Peter Ackroyd mug out, stare wistfully at my Peter Ackroyd wall paper and sit around in my Peter Ackroyd T-shirt. Ok, maybe there is no such thing - I have no idea if such merchandise actually exists but if not, well then Peter, you are missing a trick.

I'm a fan of his work, both fiction and non fiction and the man knows his stuff. His knowledge of very specific periods and areas of 18th and 19th Century British History i...more
This book would have been better if it had been a little more interested in its characters and less obsessed with its Theme: what is the difference between ‘authentic’ and ‘fake’, particularly in the arts? The answer which Ackroyd pounded over my head is - trick question! No difference at all. We cannot escape the influences of the past on everything we create, so no need to try to avoid plagiarism or condemn ghost writing. Likewise, no need to worry about whether a work of art is authentically...more
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. Wa...more
Not as good as Lambs of London. The story of Thomas Chatterton, the gifted poet who died (suicide?) at 18--the conceit is that he might actually have faked his own death, lived on, and "ghosted" some of the most famous poetry allegedly written by other famous poets. And the effect of this possibility on some modern London writers. Some thoroughly disagreeable characters and Dickensian eccentrics introduced for no point that I could discern. A nice evocation of early 19th C England; but the attem...more
Thanks, Ruth. I've been mesmerized by this image since the late 60s/early 70s. It was a hippie thing. But like hippie things, I don't remember where or when I was introduced to it!!

Sept 9 '10

Fiction and I are often at odds. I really want a biography about Chatterton, not more myths, and, even though this book was nominated for a Booker Prize, it would take another reading for me to make sense of it, and that's not something I'm willing to do. If this were more than 250 pages I would have been ou...more
Mar 27, 2013 Auli added it
Oli suurenmoista lukea Simoneiden jälkeen tällaista kevyttä lukuromaania, joka lisäksi sijoittui kutkuttavasti kirjallisuuden historian maailmaan. Vetävä, jotenkin koristeellinen rakenne siroine, luontevine aikahyppäyksineen ja kolmine aikatasoineen. Erityisen hauskasti gestiikan kautta luonnostellut hahmot joilla mitä omituisimpia eleitä ja tapoja. Teko-elitistis-kulttuuribesserwisseröinti -diskurssia, ironista aforistista sanailua ja surrealistista, pipiä taidepuhetta, siis taattua nokkelaa en...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
c1987: Nuts, odd, and slow. The Sunday Times is quoted as saying ""CHATTERTON . . . satisfies both the imagination and the intellect; every chapter delights, surprises and informs." Whaat?? I think I disagree with every word. Is it dangerous to mention that Peter Ackroyd worked as chief book reviewer for The Times? It is well written, the structure is sound, and the eccentrics are, well, eccentric. But - I just did not enjoy this read at all. Tortuous is my description. A boring Booker short lis...more
"I am here, listen to me!" is what Peter Ackroyd, the author, seems to say. He says it rather well mind you and he's quite talented in his technical and emotional writing skills. Nevertheless we have here a book about the author himself, cleverly veiled as a treatise about what is real and what isn't, what is genuine and what is fake, and most of all: how important is suffering for one's craft and convictions?

We meet down and out Charles, a poet suffering from terrible headaches. He lives with...more
This book has the ingredients for a great story--suicide, plagiarism, mysterious paintings, discovered documents, and a narrative intercut across different centuries. There are strange characters, confusion, misunderstandings, and deceptions aplenty. Take Chatterton's suicide as just one example. Was it real, faked, or misunderstood?

So why the one-star rating? The dialogue is initially interesting, then bizarre, and ultimately irritating. The characters rarely have realistic conversations; inste...more
Lynne Norman
To begin with I really struggled to get into this one. I was growing quite desperate to be introduced to a character with even an ounce of sanity as every single one of Ackroyd's creations seems completely and utterly doolally (perhaps not a very academic term in literary criticism but apt nonetheless). That said, the further into the book I got, the more fond I grew of the crazy people that were to be found in it. Once you give yourself over to the lunacy, there is actually a lot of humour to b...more
really postmodern and kind of crap. what i really wanted was a historical fiction novel about Thomas Chatterton, a 18th century plagiarist of medieval poetry who committed suicide with arsenic at age 17. this novel posits that he didn't actually die, but lived to write stuff that people then attributed to William Blake and stuff. which is an interesting premise, but it jumps back and forth between the present and the past with minimal connection, and i had absolutely no emotional investment in a...more
Beautifully addresses problems of literary history, blending past and present while addressing the key issue of forgery. There are moments where the writing is a bit boring, but you can't help but absolutely love the histrionic characters.
Zach Vowles
Lovely, quirky characters; a plot laced with symbolism; mystery and surprises. This book is a must-read for fans of real literature.
Read for Carol's group.
Very entertaining.
I'll admit, I liked this book better after class discussion.

Am I that obtuse about the makings of good literature? Do you even have to ask?

Does metafiction know a better dealer of its genre than Ackroyd? I'd be hard pressed to think otherwise, though I'm still exploring the genre. His characters were more caricature than I cared for, but the hidden literary references were gold mines of farce filled fun.
This was a struggle to be honest, which is a shame because I so wanted to love it. The characters read like a study of English eccentricity almost without exception. I did like it for the parts featuring chatterton himself and the brief bit about wallis the artist who painted the famous picture on the cover of the book and his relationship with george meredith (the model for the picture) and mrs meredith.

Ackroyd is the brilliant biographer of Blake, Dickens, T.S. Eliot, and the city of London. My guess is he wanted to do a biography of Chatterton, but found that the young poet's story lacked the heft of his usual biographical subjects. One likes to think he also discovered something about Chatterton's purported suicide, something that wouldn't be believed unless presented as fiction.
Read it slowly. It's about the ideas between the lines, more than the entangled plots. Those ideas play with what's "real" what's "fake". The absurdity and glory of art and artist and those who try to evaluate it. Told through the antics of quirky characters, part and present, worthy of Dickens.
I really liked this book until the end. The killing off of the main character well before the end of the story and the following falling action was both confusing and anti-climactic.

The writing is good, but the story unravelled as it began to get interesting.
Daily Alice
I liked this more than I thought I would. The intermingling of two timelines and overly literary nature of the book would usually put me off (I haven't really enjoyed any of the previous Peter Ackroyd books I've read) but something about it kept me enthralled.
I loved this book! It was a bit hard to get into initially because of the author's pacing and prose. However, the story was beautifully written, clever and at turns dark but thought provoking. Peter Ackroyd knows how to write a good book that's hard to put down.
Derek Davis
Funny--after "Hawksmoor" I've never found anything else by Ackroyd I liked as much. He's an astonishing master of language, but he knows that all too well and often lets it overtake his storytelling. Nothing memorable about this book.
Well, I liked it! It is an interesting detective story with lots of allusions and intertextual meanings. I don't even know whether I will re-read it once or not, but it gripped my attention.
The book is a little bit interesting through it's subject but I didn't like the writer's style. I think it is not meant for me to like this writer.
My copy of this book is in romanian.
Ackroyd is able to pull off cleverness without pedantry, and he moves away from the Caveresque sparseness of language that's often encouraged in fiction workshops.
May 13, 2008 Peter rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Susan Bruno
A diverting romp through the somewhat enigmatic tale of Thomas Chatterton, Ackroyd's novel works best when sketching characters and their interactions. Lots of fun.
Shannon K
Well-written, although I found the characters a bit hard to believe at times. A quirkier version of Possession, without the intensity.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 57 58 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Pascali's Island
  • Jake's Thing
  • An Awfully Big Adventure
  • Oxygen
  • The Public Image
  • The Keepers of Truth
  • Praxis
  • Confederates
  • The Children of Dynmouth
  • The Underground Man
  • The Beginning of Spring
  • Under the Frog
  • The Road to Lichfield
  • Headlong
  • Goshawk Squadron
  • Europa
  • In Custody
  • The Good Doctor
Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age...more
More about Peter Ackroyd...
London: The Biography Hawksmoor London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets Shakespeare: The Biography The Lambs of London

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“None of it seemed very real, but I suppose that's the trouble with
history. It's the one thing we have to make up for ourselves.”
More quotes…