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3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  1,388 ratings  ·  132 reviews
In the aftermath of the great fire, eighteenth-century London is a city of extremes. Squalor and superstition vie with elegance and reason as brilliant architect, Nicholas Dyer, is commissioned to build seven new churches. They are to stand as beacons of the Enlightenment - but Dyer plans to conceal a dark secret at the heart of each one. Two hundred and fifty years later,...more
Paperback, 217 pages
Published March 25th 1993 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1985)
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Aug 19, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: anyone wishing to exercise their ye olde english voice
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Inspector Morse meets the Time Travellers Wife with a hint of Grand Designs. But without the actual in-plot benefits of inexplicable time travel, a love interest or Kevin McCloud.

Ah London, the Big Smoke, the Great Wen, the sunken, scum-ridden, grease-spotted, pitted underbelly of the Old World. New York is referred to as the Big Apple, which implies shiny, fresh-ripened juiciness. If London was a fruit it would probably be that odd-looking stinky one that comes...more
Derek Davis
Sep 10, 2010 Derek Davis rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: to anyone who likes an edge of darkness in superb writing
This tale of the merged identities of a 17th century London architect and a contemporary police detective is wracked with darkness and terror. Few novels have ever had such a smashing impact on me, leaving me close to collapse. Magnificent style by Ackroyd (as always) but not offset by his often too-cleverness. It won major awards, then seems to have been largely forgotten. Come on, lads, lets not let it get away.
One has to admire Peter Ackroyd for not following the easy path. A book which has devil worship, murder and old London landmarks seems almost tailor-made for the Dan Brown crowd (okay, this was published long before Brown became a sensation, but on paper it would look a dream for any PR department), but then he goes and writes the first chapter – and, indeed, every odd numbered chapter – in daunting 1700’s English. “And so let us beginne, and, as the Fabrick takes its Shape in front of you, alwa...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
If this was a movie, this is what most likely what your experience of watching it will be.

It opens with a dark, ancient-looking world, so you begin with a quiver of excitement. Actually, it'll be London, in the early 18th century. The characters, and the way they speak, look and sound queer (on paper, its a very old english with lots of weird spellings and words with their first letters capitalized, like : "There is no Light without Darknesse and no Substance without Shaddowe..."). Sort of where...more
You wouldn't think that an old-fashioned way of writing, as in the odd-numbered chapters of this book, could put me off. I mean, I've learnt Anglo-Saxon and Old Icelandic, and Middle English is easier for me than a post-modern novel. Oddly enough, though, this has been called a post-modern novel (though the author, apparently, somewhat disagrees), so maybe that's why.

Actually, though I found those sections off-putting, I found them better written and more interesting than the modern sections. I'...more
As an architectural historian, Ackroyd's play with real characters and actual places is especially intriguing. The real 18th century architect Nicholas Hawksmoor becomes the fictitious Nicholas Dyer, heavily involved with the occult. Hawksmoor the architect (a favorite of mine and always on my "top ten" whose works are high on my bucket list of must see buildings) designed six London churches. Ackroyd has the fictional Dyer designing seven churches, the last one of which was conjured in my imagi...more
Mar 07, 2011 Sue marked it as worth-trying-again-someday  ·  review of another edition
I simply got stuck in this book and I'm not sure how much was me and how much was the book. Parts were interesting but parts seemed so labored. I really wanted to like it. Oh well. I may try this again in a few months and see if it hits me any differently. Til then, there are so many other things I want to read.
It seems like such a good idea, two timeline's interweaving, kind of a crime novel crossed with something like The Time Traveller's Wife with a bit of obscure Satanism thrown in for good measure. But, and I'm not sure if this was Ackroyd's intentions, it doesn't quite come off like that. In reality, or whatever world Ackroyd is writing about, it comes across as a split-personality disorder across the centuries. Don't get me wrong, for the right audience, it is completely worth digging through th...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
I first read this when I was still in college, in a copy borrowed from the British Library. It seemed brilliant and just a little obscure back then, and my impression hasn't changed much. Ackroyd weaves a complex web of allusions and resonances that propel a tale of two oddly parallel lives in London in the 18th century and the 20th century. It's the story of how 7 churches in London were secretly constructed on occult principles as focuses for dark energies; the result seems to be a sort of war...more
Described as "a poet's novel", Hawksmoor is a daring, uncompromising experiment in narrative time. Inspired in Iain Sinclair's Lud Heat (1975), it fulfills the psychogeographical premise that places are imbued with a certain energy, and buildings, such as the Hawksmoor churches in London, are shrines to the particular design of the architect, scripts which are destined to be reenacted again and again throughout history. A fascinating play on the theme of the double and parallel worlds, Hawksmoor...more
The book begins in the early 18th century with Nicholas Dyer, an architect under Christopher Wren, who was in charge of building seven churches in the city of London. In each church he buried a horrible secret. Next chapter jumps to the 1980’s and introduces us to Detective Nicholas Hawksmoor who is the lead inspector trying to solve the recent murders at each of these churches. Ackroyd then alternates each chapter between the two times and main characters. Are you confused yet? Just to add a to...more
So the blurb on the back of the book had almost zero to do with the plot, which involves the Plague and the Great Fire of London, and an 18th century Satan-worshiping church builder who sacrifices children, and mysterious present day murders at those churches which may or may not be being perpetrated by a ghost... it's a deeply weird book. It's also one of those books that was clearly written for other writers. He's put together the narrative like a piece of old-fashioned clockwork, and it's bre...more
Helen Kitson
Jun 26, 2012 Helen Kitson added it
Shelves: fiction
"This mundus tenebrosus, this shaddowy world of Mankind, is sunk into Night; there is not a Field without its Spirits, nor a City without its Daemons, and the Lunaticks speak Prophesies while the Wise men fall into the Pitte. We are all in the Dark, one with another. And, as the Inke stains the Paper on which it is spilt and slowly spreads to Blot out the Characters, so the Contagion of darkness and malefaction grows apace until all becomes unrecognizable."

In 1711, Nicholas Dyer is commissioned...more
You stand before something of this caliber, of this infinite and much-appreciated majesty, like the monkeys at the beginning of "2001" --in full awe of the macabre monolith, black and Godly, for its monstrous magnetism and awful set of implications...

I LOVE THIS novel--it makes my hair stand on end and goosebumps begin to form...

This is avant garde, and nearer perfection than any novel in recent memory (I'd probably have to contend with Graham Greene's "Quiet American" or "End of the Affair" fo...more
This is the first book I've read by Peter Ackroyd, and it will not be the last. This is a fantastic work, strangely reminding me of an elevated Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. (they take place in a similar time span). This book is denser than Quicksilver of course, and will prove to many readers to be a difficult read in the beginning. With perseverance comes revelation, as the murder mystery tale comes to fruition.
Brief synopsis: Nicholas Dyer designs six churches for the city of London. He i...more
Keith Davis
A very interesting idea, but somewhat confusing in its execution. The novel has parallel narratives about a police detective investigating a series of murders in contemporary London and of Nicholas Hawksmoor rebuilding the churches of London destroyed in the great fire of 1666. Hawksmoor is an real historical figure who filled his churches with pagan and masonic symbols. Ackroyd portrays Hawksmoor as a Satanist who consecrates each church with a murder. The 17th century murders parallel the 20th...more
It's been a long time since I read this, but I remember the impact it had on me clearly. I live and work in London and know well many of the streets and buildings on which the novel is based. You can't live in a place that has so much history and not wonder about the lives and events that preceding generations experienced there. Ackroyd takes this wonder and weaves an intricate story linking the past, present, concepts of evil around the real buildings that Hawksmoor created. I read this on a ve...more
Disappointing, vague, metaphysical. A rambling and rather pointless tale of a murdering Satanist architect of churches in London in the late 17th/early 18th centuries, and his metaphysical twin, a modern-day detective investigating murders that parallel those of the past. The curious coincidences are never explained, and the ending is nebulous and unsatisfying.
I really don't see why this is so acclaimed. The stories are so convoluted that you never really find a real plot, and there's not really an ending either. Not worth the time.
This book was inventive and strange, strange, strange. I just couldn't get excited by it though. I still love Peter Ackroyd, he's so evocative!
Oh dear lord, this was awful! Words cannot express the awfulness of this book, just as they could not express the plot or any character development.
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
There was something very false about the whole book - over dramatic, convoluted... I can't say, but I didn't really enjoy it.
Yawn yawn yawn. More historical fiction from Peter Ackroyd. This tale is supposed to be dark, and there are some interesting sections, particularly during the plague at the start, but it's overwritten in general. Nicholas Dyer, one of Christopher Wren's apprentices, has secret malevolent intentions when building churches. In the modern day, these churches become the site of gruesome murders, and Detective Hawksmoor is trying to figure it out. There's too much metaphor for a decent whodunit, and...more
Perry Whitford
Apr 15, 2014 Perry Whitford is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
- re-reading in order to write a review

- architect Nicholas Dyer, commissioned to design and build seven new churches in the Cities of London and Westminster in 1711, under the watchful eye of Sir Christopher Wren. Dyer believes in the corrupt nature of mankind, reverences spirits and the mystical, worships the Devil: 'there is no Light without Darknesse and no Substance without Shaddowe'.

- Ackroyd's abiding theme, London as palimpsest, where the people and events of the past have been overwritt...more
Couldn't get past the first chapter - completely unpenetrable!
Carole Tyrrell
This is my second reading of this novel after first reading it 15 years ago. I have always been fascinated by Hawksmoor churches – there’s one near me in Greenwich – and their strange reputation. This is largely due to Iain Sinclair’s Lud Heat.
Hawksmoor is a dual narrative; deftly switching between the early 18th century and the 20th.
Nicholas Dyer is an architect planning to build a number of churches in London who, although part of the Enlightenment, has darker, more esoteric allegiances which...more
Adam Stone
Hawksmoor is a very unusual animal. Part of it is a story about a detective trying to solve several murders that take place in certain churches in London and part of it is a story about the man who built the churches where the murders later take place who may, or may not, have been a devil worshipper. The titular detective character doesn't appear until about half way through the book which is a bit odd for a detective novel but, then again, this is not a typical entry in that particular genre,...more
"Originally published in 1985, this novel won the Whitbread Book Award and Guardian Fiction Prize in that year. It is very different book and I thoroughly enjoyed it due to this and the evocative descriptions and moody atmospheric landscape of early London. Peter Ackroyd (b1949) is also a poet and the lovely use of words makes this a joy to read although the plot is completely the antithesis of joy. The plot is disturbing but has engendered a desire to actually go and see the churches that are m...more
Nancy Oakes
Feb 20, 2008 Nancy Oakes rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: fans of Peter Ackroyd; anyone interested in London
Recommended to Nancy by: amazon
People merging into one over time & space is sort of an Ackroyd trademark (I give you House of Dr. Dee as another example). I happen to enjoy Ackroyd's fiction, and this one caught me right away. The blurb on my book advertises it as a "novel of detection," which it sort of is, but that's not the long and short of it. Set in London, in two very different times, once again, Ackroyd manages to make this city one of the book's leading characters.

The main character in the 18th-century London is...more
I wasn't crazy about Hawksmoor. The style of the Dyer passages (every other chapter) is realy technically impressive, and is almost certainly the highlight of the novel - stylistically, Ackroyd seems to pretty authentically recreate a 300-year-old voice. However, even then there were notes which didn't quite seem right - it sometimes feels like Dyer is being seen through the lens of the Romantic movement.

The passages dealing with the modern-day detective, Hawksmoor, are much more disappointing....more
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Blue Moon Book Lo...: October 2012 BOTM - "Hawksmoor" by Peter Ackroyd 3 9 Oct 12, 2012 09:42AM  
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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
More about Peter Ackroyd...
London: The Biography London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets Shakespeare: The Biography Chatterton The Canterbury Tales

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“I have liv'd long enough for others, like the Dog in the Wheel, and it is now the Season to begin for myself: I cannot change that Thing call'd Time, but I can alter its Posture and, as Boys do turn a looking-glass against the Sunne, so I will dazzle you all.” 8 likes
“He stood beneath the white tower, and looked up at it with that mournful expression which his face always carried in repose: for one moment he thought of climbing up its cracked and broken stone, and then from its summit screaming down at the silent city as a child might scream at a chained animal.” 6 likes
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