Peter Ackroyd English Music

ISBN 13: 9780679409687

English Music

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9780679409687: English Music
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After the death of his mother, Timothy Harcombe is separated from his disreputable father and sent to live with his grandparents, where he becomes lost in the world of English literature

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From Publishers Weekly:

Ackroyd's rich imagination and literary inventiveness have never been showcased so deliberately and provocatively as in this impassioned paean to English culture--but not with complete success. Perhaps the book's liability is the tone of lassitude and melancholy that permeates protagonist Tim Harcombe's narrative of his strange life with his healer/magician father during the days following WW I in London. Tim's recollections alternate with third-person accounts of his visions, dreams in which he encounters some of the dead masters of English literature, music and art and enters into their works and worlds. In this fashion, Tim comprehends the intellectual heritage that binds Britons through the centuries, and also the cyclical nature of human existence, the inheritance of family characteristics from generation to generation. Ackroyd's rendering of Tim's fugue states ranges from the charming and whimsical to the heavily didactic. In the best of them, he captures the surreal quality of dreams while cleverly adopting the style of the writers to whom he pays homage: Dickens, Blake (he has written biographies of both), Lewis Carroll, A. Conan Doyle. In other cases, where he tries to convey the essential characteristic of music (Henry Purcell) or of art (Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable) the conceit can wear thin. The artifice of the plot device--Tim must fall into his trances at regular intervals--becomes too predietable, and the constant repetition of the theme of cultural heritage somewhat overwrought. Yet the novel remains intriguing, and certainly enlightening. Illustrations.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

Outside the hall in 1920s London where Timothy Harcombe works nightly with his father, a sign reads, "Clement Harcombe. Medium and Healer." But it is Timothy who seems to have the greater power. Periodically falling into dreamlike states, he enters into "English music"--here signifying all the great accomplishments of English culture--where he encounters various literary figures, becomes part of a Gainsborough painting, and is instructed in music by William Byrd. Fearful of his son's gift, the father ships him off to his maternal grandparents in the country. But ultimately Timothy rejoins his father--for "everyone belongs somewhere"--and discovers the true extent of his miraculous powers. Ackroyd suggests that we all belong to culture. His book is both charming and ambitious, but it is more successful in concept than in execution. The transitions between Timothy's real and imagined worlds aren't seamless, and Ackroyd's lovely prose is sometimes weighed down by his message. Still, this work is more intriguing than much contemporary fiction and should appeal especially to those who appreciate the art Ackroyd celebrates.
-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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