exotic, sketchy, hectic
Peter Ackroyd’s Three Brothers might be a detailed a clef rendering of one of the fabulous corruption scandals of the 60s. It might contain a thousand sly references to other writers and their texts. But the main problem is that the delivery of those goods is awkward. Vast amounts of connective tissue are neccessary to make it work, yet remain undeveloped, as a bald line thrown in here and there. A character disappears. “By the way, what happened to Hilda?” another character asks. Almost immediately, enough fresh plot background to float a dozen chapters is crammed without emphasis into a paragraph. None of it mentions Hilda. It’s a puzzling novel: shadowy, but without atmosphere despite the constant appeal to the ghostliness of things; parodic, but with old targets; 80s in feel, but without any of the edge of Hawksmoor; acute and enjoyable in parts, naive and awkward in others–a little like one of Poliakov’s more failed dramas.