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3.48  ·  Rating details ·  4,075 ratings  ·  461 reviews
'There is no Light without Darknesse and no Substance without Shaddowe'

So proclaims Nicholas Dyer, assistant to Sir Christopher Wren and man with a commission to build seven London churches to stand as beacons of the enlightenment. But Dyer plans to conceal a dark secret at the heart of each church - to create a forbidding architecture that will survive for eternity.

Two h
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 25th 1993 by Penguin Books (first published September 1985)
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Average rating 3.48  · 
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 ·  4,075 ratings  ·  461 reviews

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Vit Babenco
Dec 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A question asked in order to create a dramatic effect is known as a rhetorical question…
‘And so the facts don’t mean much until you have interpreted them?’

The task of a writer is to interpret the facts. Peter Ackroyd is a master of dark interpretations of history and his Hawksmoor is one of such eisegeses establishing the murky and murderous rapport between the past and the present.
Do cathedrals – houses of God – serve the living or do they glorify the dead?
The Night was far advanc’d, and the C
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
You stand before something of this caliber, of this infinite and oh-much-appreciated majesty, like the monkeys at the beginning of "2001"--in full awe of the macabre monolith, black & Godly, for its monstrous magnetism & set of awful (...demonic?) implications.

I LOVE THIS novel! It t 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
Jun 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Paul Bryant
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
Things They Don’t Teach You in Architect School No 12 : once the foundations of your new church are dug, don’t forget your human sacrifice. Some kid around 8 to 12 is the best, but in a pinch, any old tramp will do.
Sarah Epton
May 24, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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
What an amazing book! Profound, intriguing, emotionally heart-felt, disturbing. Everything you could want out of book. Which is to say - an incredible novel... but not for everyone.

Reading HAWKSMOOR heartily rang the area of my aesthetic bells that J.G. Ballard or Steven Millhauser also chime - and I can distinctly remember being dismayed by reviews on Goodreads that dismissed those authors with "unlikeable characters", "too cold", "too British", "too removed" or, in Millhauser's case "more inte
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'
W.D. Clarke
Dec 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
There's bodies decomposing in containers tonight
In an abandoned building where
A squatter's made a mural of a Mexican girl
With fifteen cans of spray paint and a chemical swirl
She's standing in the ashes at the end of the world
Four winds blowing through her hair

—"Four Winds", Bright Eyes, Cassadaga (2007)

What a strange, subtly troubling, idiosyncratic novel this was—not my first by Ackroyd, but the others (The House of Doctor Dee, The Trial of Elizabeth Cree, English Music, good books all) were re
Derek Davis
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Though this is a fairly short book at 217 pages, it is not an easy read, in part because the historical chapters are written in olde English which takes some getting used to. When I reached part two, I decided to stop and begin reading the book over again: I found I was understanding the language a bit better but I also realized there were coincidences across time to which I should be paying closer attention. I also wanted to acquaint myself with the actual historical events of the time period b ...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
Jan 19, 2011 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. ...more
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Anya (An Awful Lot of Reading)
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
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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", Hawksmoor's 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 m ...more

Ackroyd is always at his best when he is writing about London. In many of his books, London is the main character, not so much a protagonist or antagonist but a present character all the same.
This is true here.
Hawksmoor is about a series of murders that are connected with the churches in London. The book soars when dealing with London, and the menace of the neighborhood, the life of Spitalfields is wonderfully illustrated.
For all its briefness, it is a heavy book that talks a while to diges
Bookworm with Kids
This is a very strange book - I would give it 2.5 stars but have to round up (generously!) to 3 stars as there were some lyrical passages with beautiful writing. However, the story, characters and plot did not engage my interest. I liked the swapping between the time periods in alternate chapters. I read this book for the Duncan Jones book club (or the David Bowie book club, whichever of the two you prefer!) but it wouldn't be my choice. ...more
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"I was afraid of your Moving Picture, I said without thought, and that was why I left.

It was only Clock-work, Nick.

But what of the vast Machine of the World, in which Men move by Rote but in which nothing is free from Danger?

Nature yields to the Froward and the Bold.

It does not yield, it devours: You cannot master or manage Nature.

But, Nick,our Age can at least take up the Rubbidge and lay the Foundacions: that is why we must study the principles of Nature, for they are our best Draught.

No, sir,
This was an unexpected treat and hence the higher rating. My third novel by the author and the best novel of the three I've read to date. The story fluctuates between Nicholas Dyer an eighteen century architect, builder of London churches and the present day detective Nicholas Hawksmoor. A series of murders have been committed in the churches built by Dyer and Hawksmoor sets out to find the will- 0-the-wisp murderer.

Enjoyed the period and the setting of London both past and present day. Even enj
Feb 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a weird way I was dreading this book. I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, especially if it takes place in the middle ages/enlightenment era. However, Hawksmoor is a different kettle of fish and incorporates many other literary genres.

The novel is based on the six churches that Nicholas Hawksmoor (here renamed Dyer) built. The thing is Dyer is part of a Satanic cult and is building churches for human sacrifice.

The even numbered chapters takes place in 1980’s London, where there are a ser
Nadosia Grey
Best fictional novel I’ve read in the past 3 years. What a joy to read, but at the same, what a terrible ordeal. This may be classified as mystery, postmodern, and horror and, indeed, it is all of these things. The last thing I expected was a horror element exacerbated by whispering shadows and thoughtless murders. This is by no means an easy work—something that you can breeze through once and understand. There is a slow methodological rumination weaving your attention throughout the novel. You ...more
Very weird, very atmospheric 1985 novel by historian/biographer Peter Ackroyd, drawing on the historical figure of architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, who worked alongside Christopher Wren and, among other things, designed a half-dozen London churches. In the novel, the historical figure of Hawksmoor becomes the character of Nicholas Dyer, a plague orphan turned loose-bowelled architect and secret Satanist, whose design of a half-dozen churches forms part of his Satan-worshipping and murderous plans. ...more
Marco G
Oct 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
So I read this book because David Bowie supposedly loved it. I didn't understand it I didn't get it, and I think I'm just not smart enough to understand it. David Bowie is probably a brilliant guy and maybe you require a higher level of intelligence to understand this book. It's one of the most difficult books I've ever read. I have put it down so many times but I decided this weekend I'm going to Bull my way through it, finish it and move on to more enjoyable hopefully books. I'm not going to s ...more
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel made me feel uneasy, at turns drawing me in, then repelling me. It was atmospheric and disturbing, while also descriptive and beautiful. Derek Jacobi's narration is sublime. I got a sense that he truly esteemed this novel and enjoyed the challenge of interpreting the various characters. At first, I was glad to leave it behind as it was an intense reading experience, however, I am considering that I may revisit it some day. ...more
DeAnna Knippling
Reality gets bent in this masterpiece of dark magic, history, and the conflict between superstition and science--with math and engineering at the crux, one foot in both worlds.

Think Moorcock or Alan Moore. Dark and trippy.
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
I may have been in the wrong mood to read this but this is the internet and I can do whatever I want. Two stars! Good day, sir!
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Reading 1001: Hawksmoor, by Peter Ackroyd 2 11 Sep 08, 2019 02:13PM  

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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

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