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The Pursuit of William Abbey

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  1,757 ratings  ·  305 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 Zul

Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published November 12th 2019 by Orbit
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Kate Unfortunately the entire book is filled with language. Mostly English, and several others as well.
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first novel by Ms North, but definitely I'll read more of her books as William Abbey's story turned out to be a powerful and very much unsettling one. A young doctor who in the 1880s finds himself practising in South Africa, witnesses a hineous crime committed on a black boy and remains just an observer. The boy's mother curses William and from now on he is pursued by the shadow of the boy all over the world and tragic revenge is taken when the shadow manages to catch up with William.
This is
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, no
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 essen ...more
Dec 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a historical fantasy, it starts very slow and stays very close to its historical roots, from the Boer War and onward toward the first World War, being very English but then, again, not at all. It's an indictment and a commentary in all the best ways.

But then it becomes fantastical in a way that I'm very familiar with when it comes to Claire North's writing. Slow and steady and exquisitely detailed always eventually becomes a huge rebellion/revolt/epic-tragedy. It's almost crazy to think that
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 b
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars

(An attenuated review, due to my loss of all my notes, sorry)

Another extraordinary book, and Ms North proves again to be a genre unto herself, unlike any other. Truly wonderful.

As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you.

Claire North (Catharine Webb)

Full size image here

William Abbey is a man almost without courage or purpose in life, just a loser cursed to live often in terror, and to often be a tool of the "great and good".

Is love a curse or a blessing?

Like so many of North's books, The Pursuit of William Abbey is a love it or hate it book. Typical of North the writing is extremely dense, almost entirely narrative and with very little dialogue. At times it verges on stream of consciousness without actually tipping over, which lends a certain realistic quality to the idea that you are being told a complicated story extemporaneously by the person to whom it happened.

I thought the idea presented, that truth is indivi

Claire North's ideas continue to impress me. William Abbey is cursed - a shadow spirit's presence follows him around the world. When close, it gives him the power to see the truth of men’s hearts. When it catches him, it will kill those he loves.

Abbey spends most of his life running away from the shadow, working as a spy (government sees a perfect tool in him and his unique skills), becoming a traitor, falling in impossible and dangerous love. His story doesn't lack suspense but it's dense
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 Tr
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

“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 i
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 frontie
Liz Barnsley
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review to follow for the tour.
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 next ...more
Maja Ingrid
3,5 stars

Not sure if I was in the wrong mood or not or if my actual relationship with Claire North is either a love or hate one. Because all my reviews and ratings for her books has been everywhere between 2 and 5 stars. Or if I need to stop expecting another Harry August mind-blow.

But compared to North's other books, this one is one of the more one-linear books, meaning that it doesn't jump around the time line, as her previous works are known to do. Which I appreciate a lot because my brain d
Lauren Stoolfire
I liked the story here, but the audiobook narrator left something to be desired. I think I would have preferred experiencing this in print format instead.
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This just felt...flat. Better in concept than in execution. And way too much melodramatic shouting.

Claire North’s newest offering is part ghost story, part spy novel, part...speculative historical fiction, I suppose. Which should be an oxymoronic description, but somehow it fits here.

I liked the idea of it, certainly, and in its more active moments, the story is propulsive. And yet I found myself struggling to care about the characters or the outcome and indifferent to the atmosphere.

The rela
Sep 08, 2020 rated it did not like it
Very disappointing

I very much enjoyed this author’s first book, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, so I was really looking forward to reading this one. What a disappointment! It was far too long and repetitive. It could easily have been 100 pages shorter with no loss to the narrative. I found myself skipping large sections just to get it finished and move on to something else.
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 wo
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. ...more
Hiu Gregg
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs
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 d
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Annise
Shelves: fiction, supernatural, wwi
This is the second novel of Claire North's that I've read, the first being The End of the Day. Based on these reading experiences, I think I prefer North's genuinely fascinating ideas to her writing style. I find the latter involves a lot more tell than show, manifesting in verbose inner monologues that wear a bit thin. This is entirely personal preference, of course. I found a lot to appreciate in 'The Pursuit of William Abbey' and definitely enjoyed it more than The End of the Day. The concept ...more
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
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very different, upsettingly graphic at times to the atrocities against mankind...
Jan 04, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I will only really enjoy one book by this author?! About done with trying the new ones.
Pamela  (Here to Read Books and Chew Gum)
The Pursuit of William Abbey was all fur coat and no knickers. North writes beautifully, and there's some really confronting moments of body horror that were just amazingly written, but my main takeaway from the book was that it was boring. I skim read huge chunks of it and didn't feel like I was missing out. It's such a shame because the concept is great. I just felt like it was a work that gives the illusion of depth that it simply didn't have.

The pacing is methodical. We hear the story of Wil
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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.

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“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
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