Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “English Music” as Want to Read:
English Music
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

English Music

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  215 ratings  ·  16 reviews
From the prize-winning author of First Light, Chatterton, and Hawksmoor - a dazzlingly inventive and powerfully moving novel about the intricate ties between fathers and sons, between inheritance and culture, and between our understanding of the past and our grasp of the present. In post-World War I London, on the stage of the out-of-the-way Chemical Theatre, Clement Harco ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published June 14th 1994 by Ballantine Books (first published 1992)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about English Music, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about English Music

The Quiet American by Graham GreeneThe English Patient by Michael OndaatjeNorwegian Wood by Haruki MurakamiThe French Lieutenant's Woman by John FowlesThe Greenlanders by Jane Smiley
74th out of 162 books — 23 voters
Emma by Jane AustenEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardEclipse by Stephenie MeyerThe Eyre Affair by Jasper FfordeEast of Eden by John Steinbeck
Good Books that Begin with E
212th out of 326 books — 40 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 432)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Susanna Rose
Before the book starts, Ackroyd leaves us a little note, saying that 'literary readers' will notice he used material from a bunch of other English artists, while 'alert readers' will understand why he did so. Um, yeah, most understated preface EVER. Ackroyd, you are not subtle. Just as with Chatterton, you leave no space for the reader to pick up hints or put together pieces for herself. In a series of pedantic conversations, you dunked my head repeatedly into your Theme and held it there.

Of the Ackroyd novels I have read, this is both the most ambitious and the most severly flawed. Of the three stars I gave, two are for the immensely beautiful language that both soars poetic and chants in a trance-inducing way. The framing story is decent and has its heart in a good place. But the clou of the novel, Tim's many dream travels into English art and litterature, is a pretty unstable device and often disrupts the flow of the human story. I know Dickens and Defoe well enough to enjoy t ...more
Embedded in this experimental novel is a moving story about a son and his father. The novel alternates between first-person chapters showing Timothy Harcombe's coming of age and third person chapters making Timothy a character in works of English literature (e.g., Alice in Wonderland) and dropping him into other works of English art. Unfortunately for the overall novel, Timothy's coming of age is way more compelling than the experimental chapters. Ackroyd makes some interesting statements about ...more
Tony Laplume
English Music is a sensational act of literary biography.

Half the story concerns the life of Timothy Harcombe as he grows from boy to man and struggles to figure out the exact nature of his relationship with his father. The other half is an unabashed ode to the English arts. Where these two aspects meet can perhaps be a little hard to define, and perhaps easier to misinterpret. Nonetheless they combine to great effect.

Timothy's journey is a constant struggle of identity. For most of the story he
English Music
“Dreams are very particular things, Edward. They can be more real than anything in the ordinary world. Have you ever considered that?’ Edward simply looked at him. ‘And do you know why? Because a dream brings out the secret life of the world. It can reflect all the things we have forgotten we knew. It can bring out the spirit of a place or a person, like music which no one has previously been able to hear.” This short passage brings out the overall sense of the book for me.

There is
I haven't read a novel in a while and was happy to settle into this simple and quick read that I picked up for a buck at a used book shop in Houston. Then I remembered why I don't read Ackroyd novels--I feel like he's trying to teach me a lesson. (I loved his book on Thomas More and liked other bios.) Here he has an idea about place, genetics and inheritance, and he writes his characters and plot in accordance with his idea. Though I skipped some of the instruction-filled dream sequences, I coul ...more
The permanent theme of every Ackroyd book, fiction or otherwise, gets the turbo treatment in this evocative novel. There are things about England that ever was and the whisper to us on the street corners and down alleyways and always pull us back to what the Celt and the Saxon first saw in its grey meadows and translucent skies. Every poet that ever was is compelled to set out a bit of this story; and ditto all the painters and composers too.

The tale is one of a boy’s childhood, set in the 1920s
Mazy Luellen
I read this book nice and slow so I could take in all the beautiful imagery and flowery language. Purple prose? Yes, in parts, and yes, sometimes it did get tedious, especially during the dream sequences. But I loved it in spite of it. I liked that it was very different from other novels, yet with an easily recognizable theme. I liked the story. I liked the overuse of literary devices. I liked the imagry. I loved the art used between each chapter. I would highly recommend this book, but would al ...more
Erica Gregory
The author's usual high standard
I really enjoyed the central plot of this book and found the characters compelling. Unfortunately the addition of the dream sequences was a bit contrived and the message of inheritance was overstated to say the least.

However, despite its faults, this book is an enjoyable read with a good story at its centre.
Fiona Robson
Another amazing book by Peter Ackroyd. I was really disappointed to finish this novel as I have become completely wrapped up in the story and characters. Especially loved the father/son relationship. This was such a heart warming read. Crying out to be made into a film!
a fairly odd first impression of it was distinctly was tedious and a bit too atmospheric and ethereal for me...
i'm not entirely willing to stand by this....i'll need to read it again...
A weird one, a little hard to get into and very wordy. Hard to follow if you're not so clued up on classical English literature but there is a great story underneath this if you can perserve with it.
Oct 10, 2009 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: shelved
I like this book, but it has suffered the fate of so many books that ended up at the bottom of a pile... Shelved to be picked up again in the future.
P. R.
As good as Hawksmoor, better than First Light, not as good as The House of Doctor Dee, but true Ackroyd, restoring the mystery to human life.
I simply did not have the rich literary history to adequately enjoy this book- but if it is so derivative, would I have enjoyed it anyway?
Joshua marked it as to-read
Nov 22, 2015
Darren Mitton
Darren Mitton marked it as to-read
Nov 15, 2015
Rick added it
Nov 07, 2015
David Greenberg
David Greenberg marked it as to-read
Nov 06, 2015
LORRAINE marked it as to-read
Oct 05, 2015
Peter added it
Sep 28, 2015
David marked it as to-read
Sep 25, 2015
Liz marked it as to-read
Sep 20, 2015
Claire marked it as to-read
Sep 18, 2015
LadyOracle marked it as to-read
Sep 17, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 14 15 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • A Whistling Woman
  • The Birthday Boys
  • Music for Sight Singing
  • The Gift of Stones
  • Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M.
  • Cross Channel
  • Rise: Stories
  • Shade
  • A History of London
  • Beside The Ocean Of Time
  • God's Fool
  • The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys
  • Harmonograph: A Visual Guide to the Mathematics of Music
  • Souls Raised from the Dead
  • Fairy Tale
  • Lammas Night
  • How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (And Why You Should Care)
  • Headlong
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 about Peter Ackroyd...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“The world is a sea in which we all must surely drown.” 17 likes
“The best years are when you know what you're doing.” 9 likes
More quotes…