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

The Pursuit of William Abbey

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  594 ratings  ·  135 reviews

'MESMERIC, TERRIFYING AND WONDERFUL' M. R. Carey, author of The Girl With All the Gifts

From the award-winning and bestselling author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and 84K comes a powerful new novel that examines how the choices we make can haunt us forever . . .

South Africa, 1884. William Abbey, an English doctor, watches white colonists lynch a Zulu

Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published November 12th 2019 by Orbit
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 The Pursuit of William Abbey, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Kate Unfortunately the entire book is filled with language. Mostly English, and several others as well.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  594 ratings  ·  135 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Pursuit of William Abbey
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2019
Another good book from this very talented author. Not my personal favourite but still very good indeed. As happens a lot in her books the main character, William Abbey, is being pursued all around the world. His pursuer is the shade of a dead boy and the results if he gets caught are not good.

So, points to the author for the clever story and the way it makes the reader think hard about what is going on all the time. Points too for the amazing amount of research which must have gone into all the
Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance
4.5 stars

I was very excited to have the opportunity to review this title from the moment it appeared on my radar.

Like an endless sea, this remarkable work of fiction does not cease to ever end in scope and engagement as one reads through the 400+ pages. Hopes, dreads, dreams, and desires of a lifetime of every facete imaginable will be touched on in this journey of The Pursuit of William Abbey. Not a country in the world, not a shore unexplored, no historical events within its premise missed,
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, netgalley
I requested an electronic advance copy of this book from NetGalley because the premise it's built on sounded fascinating, and I was delighted that the publisher approved my request. The premise here is that William Abbey, an Englishman who sees (and doesn't act in response to) a child killed by a white mob in Africa, is cursed by the child's mother. The shadow of her son will follow Abbey for the rest of his life, and any time the shadow catches up, the person Abbey loves most will die. In ...more
Nils | nilsreviewsit
3.5 stars

‘The Great War had been coming for such a long time. It was born in the hearts of our ruling men the day they were held up in the crib and told they were blessed with a greatness that others could not share. It was nurtured when they saw their greatness challenged, and sought some way to prove their strength. Now it eats us whole.’
The Pursuit of William Abbey is a powerful historical fiction and also part fantasy novel by the award winning author, Claire North. As I’ve never read any
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very well researched book which had a curse as the focal point. It all started with one and led to a merry chase.

William Abbey in Africa, did not save a child from the mob. The child died and the mother cursed him that the shadow of her child would pursue him throughout his life. If the shadow caught William, someone close to him would die. And William needed to be on the move in any mode of transportation. The shadow would come after him at a steady rate. And William in essence became the
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wishlist

“I know the truth of men’s hearts, and what I know is that they are right, every single one of them. They live within the power of their own rightness, and anyone who disagrees with them can only be wrong, and being wrong, they are therefore less. That is what I know, and it terrifies me.”

The Pursuit of William Abbey is the sixth stand-alone novel by award-winning British author, Claire North. Banished to South Africa by his wealthy father, Dr William Abbey is (poorly) practicing medicine is
Liz Barnsley
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review to follow for the tour.
The Tattooed Book Geek (Drew).
As always this review can also be found on my blog The Tattooed Book Geek: https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress...

In 1917, France, against the backdrop of the Great War. In a French hospital for wounded soldiers with cannon and gunfire reverberating outside and enemy forces closing in Dr William Abbey, over a few nights and with Langa, his shadow ever approaching and drawing nearer recounts his story to Sister Ellis.

Abbey’s story starts in South Africa, Natal, 1884, in a small and dusty
Robin Bonne
Dec 28, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Yikes on a bike. I don’t want to put the emotional labor into unpacking what is wrong with this narrative. The “magical negro” trope is a big no-no for white authors.
Christa Jackson
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mmmmm, started of well but then sort of lost track of what was happening. William started off as a young doctor witnessing the murder of a young black boy in South Africa in the late 1800’s, he is cursed by the mother and the shadow of the boy follows him. He becomes a truth speaker and is recruited by the British government to spy on the European countries. he then tells his story to a nurse in the trenches during WWI . While I found the story riveting, it did jump from one timeline to the ...more
Christine Sandquist (eriophora)
This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks. Thank you to Orbit for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I’m convinced: it’s literally impossible for Claire North to write a bad book. I think she’s just genuinely incapable of anything less than excellence. When she writes a sentence, it just comes out good. Every single time. Of this I am certain. Alternatively, there’s the much more mundane and likely scenario: she’s very, very good at proofing, has a
Laura Jean
This is a phenomenal book. It has a strong philosophical bent. What is truth? What is the truth of a person's heart? Can one heart contain multiple conflicting "truths"? So powerful and thought provoking. I can't imagine the author choosing a better time to set this masterpiece. Set between 1884 and 1917, a time when people believed that science and reason could master all, but when magic and superstition were still strong in many cultures. A time when the British Empire covered 3/4 of the globe ...more
Nov 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5* recently when I've read a North book ive been a little underwhelmed. We have the great prose shes known for, a more linear plot style and a story very well researched ( historical fiction elements). I just didnt feel as engaged as I did with her previous stories.
Hiu Gregg
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review to come!
Pauliina (The Bookaholic Dreamer)
3.5 stars!

Claire North's books are always extremely intriguing. The premise sucks you in and the writing is spectacular, both introspective and intelligent. Although the premises of the previous books I have read by the author have been more complex than this was one, I was more confused by the events in the Pursuit of William Abbey than any others.

William Abbey is a doctor in the 19th century and in Africa, he evidences a horrendously cruel event of white men burning a black boy alive, and he
Lel Budge
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Abbey witness the killing of a young child by a mob of white men in South Africa, he did nothing to help.

The child’s mother, after seeing her sons last breath curses William, the child’s shadow will follow him for the rest of his life…..if it catches up to him, someone he loves will die.

William starts travelling to keep ahead of the shadow, he can also hear people’s inner truthful thoughts and has no choice but to then speak them out loud. He’s now a truth-teller and as a result various
Sunyi Dean
Jan 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Conflicting read

"And I knew at last what I had wanted to know since I had met her: that there was no such thing as simple as the storyteller’s love in her, that love was a tangled measure of a thousand different things, and that sometimes there was a word called love that she knew and understood, and then sometimes it was gone, and she could not master it, and being unmastered, she longed to let it go, and then thinking of it, it came again."

Another beautifully written but structurally chaotic
Joanna Park
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating, gripping and thought provoking read. I always enjoy this author’s books as they are always very unique reads. The Pursuit Of William Abbey is no exception as it manages to be part historical, part science fiction but does this incredibly well so it’s never confusing.

The story intrigued me from the start with an interesting opening and I soon found myself drawn into the story. The writing is beautiful and very vivid with some fabulous descriptions of the places that
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very different, upsettingly graphic at times to the atrocities against mankind...
Melanie’s reads
In trying to read out of my comfort zone I’m saying yes to books that previously I wouldn’t have picked up. Historical fiction and fantasy being the two I really avoided. This book covers both and I’m so glad I made the decision to give it a try.

In the opening chapters set in Jardin du Pansee, just miles from the frontline in 1917, we meet Dr William Abbey at a French hospital as he recounts his story to Sister Ellis. The dead and dying all around this is a brutal introduction to the reality of
Susan Hampson
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The more I read this book and the more the cover became perfect for the story. The story began in 1884 and my skin crawled as arrogant white men showed no respect for the native South African people. They are seen as not human, having no feelings and being worthless, so when William Abbey, a young doctor, witnesses a Zulu boy being tied to a tree and set on fire he feels nothing for him.
When he is cut from the tree, unrecognisable his mother holds him while he still fights to breathe. When she
I'm a huge fan of Claire North's work - The Gameshouse is one of my very favourite reads of 2019, a masterpiece. With William Abbey we're given another intriguing, clever and original piece of speculative fiction, which is also extremely moving. It provides damning comment on the evils of empire and of a society in which one stands back, watches horrendous injustice committed and does nothing. This isn't my favourite of North's work - I found it a little repetitive and thought that it stalled on ...more
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The premise is simple, Doctor William Abbey stood back and let a horrific event occur, making himself complicit by his inaction. His penance? To be forever followed by a ghost who will kill someone Abbey loves if it catches up with him. There is more, however. Abbey is also cursed to know the truth of people’s hearts. Not that sanitized version of the truth that we portray to the outside world. The pure, undiluted truth that people often deny within themselves.

…mankind loves to be sure. To know.
John Rennie
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, but I think it is a book that will divide opinion and some people won't like it at all. So what I'm going to try to do here is help you decide whether to buy it by explaining why you may or may not like it.

This isn't a plot driven book. The story is rather slight and meandering and in the end nothing much happens. The point of the book is for Claire North to explore the inhumanity of humans to other humans and how we justify it to ourselves. In this respect it feels much
Pam Patterson
I think i've found my genre, at least my genre for now. Historical, magical realism and a great story about humans. The Pursuit of William Abbey is a good mystery and a good story. What fascinated me the most was the idea that being about read another person's "truth" doesn't exactly get you the "truth" but their version of it. It's more like having everyone else's committee speaking in your head - how god awful that would be. My own committee is noisy enough. I found the nurse a necessary ...more
I usually do not read historical fiction, and I usually do not make it through books that are as dense as this one. But. The story is very interesting and the writing is so smart that I had to finish it. No, it's not a quick read and it's not always exciting or enthralling (view spoiler), but it does give us a interesting view of humanity every time Langa is near. And you can really see the time it took and the love that must have been ...more
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book really has the same atmosphere as 'the 15 lives of Harry August'. It uses one 'magical' aspect to show the complexities of the world. So this is almost not a novel but rather a lots of philosophical musings on the nature of knowledge and truth. Sometimes the plot creeps through and you can't put it away anymore, sometimes you're mesmerized by the wisdom within the main character's rambles. This book is an experience - don't try to think to hard about whether it would actually make ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, historical
4.5 Stars
Claire North is back to her Touch and First Fifty Lives of Harry August best. A true chameleon of a book that is part historical fiction, part thriller, part science fiction, part horror all to combine into a very frightening and thoroughly enjoyable novel.

The story was fast paced, (appropriate given the plot), and rollicking although not exactly fun. My only small issue was the characters were a little flimsy, but forgivable given the density of the plot.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Abbey is a white man living in Victorian Era South Africa. A South Africa that is torn apart by white colonists and he's blind to the suffering surrounding him from the native Africans. Until he is cursed to see the truth in everyone's heart. The curse takes the shape of a boy who he watched on the sidelines as a mob burned him. Whenever that shadow of the boy reunites with him, someone he loves dies. So William Abbey has to run. All the time. This leads to him to become a spy for ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Please correct page count 3 15 Dec 04, 2019 03:10PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Future of Another Timeline
  • Hunting Annabelle
  • Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties
  • A Book of Bones (Charlie Parker, #17)
  • Let Me Hear a Rhyme
  • A Dark Matter
  • A Single Thread
  • Wakenhyrst
  • The Art of Falling in Love
  • The Tesla Legacy
  • Echoes
  • Realm of Knights (Knights of the Realm, #1)
  • As Many Nows as I Can Get
  • Dear Haiti, Love Alaine
  • Kingdom of Needle and Bone
  • Ship of Smoke and Steel (The Wells of Sorcery, #1)
  • Things Can Only Get Better
  • Impostor (Alexander Gregory Thrillers, #1)
See similar books…

Claire North is actually Catherine Webb, a Carnegie Medal-nominated young-adult novel author whose first book, Mirror Dreams, was written when she was just 14 years old. She went on to write seven more successful YA novels.

Claire North is a pseudonym for adult fantasy books written by Catherine Webb, who also writes under the pseudonym Kate Griffin.
“We live in ignorance most of the time. We make up stories to find sense, to make the thunder the wrath of a dancing devil, to make the sunrise about our lives, a gift to us, rather than just the turning of the world that turns regardless of whether we live and die. We tell ourselves stories to put ourselves at the centre of everything, and invent knowledge to prove this, and truths to justify why we are important, and one day I thought… damn, maybe I am a great Buddhist after all! Because if I have learnt anything from my brother-in-law’s ghost, it’s that the world we see when we are trying to understand ourselves is nothing compared to the world we see when we simply let ourselves look. Truth… is imperceptible to human eyes, because we are so caught up in being ourselves that we are never simply here, seeing, here, being, here. We desire truth, the story that makes us right, I think, more than anything we have ever known. It is nonsense. It is noise. Let it go.” 1 likes
“Perhaps you don’t hate the British,” I mused. “Perhaps it is simply injustice.” “Of course!” she tutted, not turning her head from her examination of the road before us. “Of course it is injustice! But when injustice wears the same pasty face, you make connections, no? It is not truth. It is simply how the heart works.” 1 likes
More quotes…