4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I'm sure there is better Ackroyd (and Chatterton) out there somewhere,
This review is from: Chatterton (Paperback)
I had been looking forward to reading something by this author for some time. Maybe I would have been better off with another one of his books, or actually reading rather than listening. (This was a BBC audiobook, read by James Wilby). To begin with, I thought I had purchased a biography of Thomas Chatterton. I hadn't. This is a novel. A crew of annoying characters populates this speculative tale concerning poet Thomas Chatterton, who was of course the classic romantic what-if tale of English literature - a gifted young poet whose work went unrecognized in his time, a fact that helped push him to commit suicide at age 19 or so. In this book, an unsuccessful English writer discovers an old painting, which appears to be of Chatterton, but as a grown man. The story develops that perhaps Chatterton faked his own death, and from that point used a variety of noms de plume. The themes of doubling, faking, and questionable authorship persist throughout the story, and to be honest, I had trouble keeping up with all of it. An old female writer, the young writer's boss, also gets involved. There are attempts at adding levity by the portrayal of this loony crone (and other eccentrics) but these mostly fall flat. What I found most enjoyable was the historical fiction parts of it, the scenes of young Chatterton and his mates having discussions and plotting his phony demise - but the majority of the book takes place in the modern world, and the numerous inconsequential discussions and the like made me yearn for a blue pencil. Ackroyd is known mostly as a biographer (of Dickens and others). I still would like to give one of those biographies a try.