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First Light

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  217 ratings  ·  15 reviews
First Light begins with an ominous coincidence: the reappearance of the ancient night sky during the excavation of an astronomically aligned Neolithic grave in Dorset. A group of eccentrics — archaeologists, astronomers, local rustics, a civil servant, and a stand-up comic — converge on the site, disturbing the quiet seclusion of Pilgrin Valley. Someone (or something) is t ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 12th 1996 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 1989)
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mark monday
Peter Ackroyd has a thing about the past coming back to haunt the present. That sounds like a pretty straightforward theme, and is the basis of so many novels - and yet Ackroyd takes this idea and turns it into such a transformative yet disturbing experience that the result is very different than the one I initially imagined.

I’m not sure what I expected when I first picked this up. Perhaps I was thinking of the darkness of Hawksmoor, except transplanted to the English countryside. But from the v
Nikhilesh Sinha
Atmospheric, immersive, melancholic and ultimately anti-climactic. Ackroyd has ability but in this book seems to create slightly hollow characters, that are set up to be caricatures of themselves, which is amusing at first, but limiting in the end. The role-reversed lesbian couple, the retired stand-up and his malapropistic wife, the seemingly simple but oddly disquieting farmer and son, the astronomer desperate in his mediocrity, and the tragic archeologist with his crippled wife invite curiosi ...more


3 out of 5

With the discovery of an ancient astronomically aligned grave site in Dorset, everyone is excited over it — well, pretty much everyone. You see, something or someone is doing its best to sabotage and scare the archaeologists, led by Mark Clare, from digging there and Pilgrin Valley. How is it that something as small as a grave site will bring together a group of people, who seem to have nothing in common with each other?

I’ll be
Jer McS
A delightful oddball comic novel.
If you're expecting seriousness about history, don't read it. If slapstick, farce, and 19th c. music hall humor work for you, then there's a hefty chance you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
I felt so deeply while reading this book. It was so melancholy and so metaphysical. I didn't know what to expect. It's about archaeology....but not really. It's about astronomy...but not really. It's about depression, and some of the characters are so deliciously malicious.

I thought that an alien would pop up somewhere, to be honest, but they didn't. It's the kind of book that you start out reading with a wrinkled brow and end up with a different wrinkled brow, but it's a sad one.
Bob Cropf
I believe this was his first novel and the developmental aspect shows. Still, it is an interesting read if only because it shows some indications of Ackroyd's gifts as a writer which become much clearer in his later works of non-fiction, which include London: Biography of a City and the most recent Foundation. Ackroyd weaves history into this novel but without the deftness that is the hallmark of his later works such as Doctor Dee.
I have already developed polarity issues with this book and I haven't even read it yet. I am at once both repelled by it and, at the same time, strangely drawn to it all because of its subject matter... am bumping this toward the top of the pile in order to deal with the aforementioned issues. Time will tell.
This book was hard for me to understand. I read it through wanting to finally find out how all the characters came together. A lot is going on as you read...many characters to follow. I still don't quite get the ending.
By turns funny, grim (as befits a book echoing Thomas Hardy), eerie and above all thought-inspiring. An archaeological dig in Dorset has unexpected consequences for a broad cast of characters, some fortunate and some less so.
Malcolm Cameron
Superb, eerie, unsettling and brilliantly written, great characters, lots to think about, a real exploration of the ancient past, recent past, today and the future. One of Ackroyd's best books.
Reminiscent of Robert Holdstock, but more grounded and with more sly humor. A tomb is unearthed in the English countryside - what mysteries lurk within and without?
Lots of characters that were unlikeable. A pseudo-mystical cult with archeologists. Not the worst book I've ever read, but not really worth the time.
Not the best Ackroyd, a bit heavy going. For some reason though I have read it twice. Still not sure exactly what happens.
Astronomers, anthropologists, common people: a great setting for a macabre story set in rural England.
A relatively okay book spoiled by universally dislikeable female characters.
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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...
London: The Biography The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling Hawksmoor London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets Shakespeare: The Biography

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“And when I was young, did I ever tell you, I always wanted to get inside
a book and never come out again? I loved reading so much I wanted
to be a part of it, and there were some books I could have stayed in
for ever.”
“Sometimes the silences, the gaps, tell us more than
anything else.”
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