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.
Just read the full review in The Guardian.. the line “Asher Ruppta the exoticised slumlord who, whenever he’s plotting his next move, “sits very still and smells his fingers”, like a debased magician in a novel by Charles Williams”. immediately bought back memories of The Greek in War in Heaven, sitting cross legged on the floor. Great line.
Hm. While discouraging, I’ll still read it as soon as it arrives here. A new novel by Ackroyd deserves at least that much respect.
I like this from your full review: “…a lucid prose unsurprised by the things it sees. Each item, be it a scene, a character, an action, is handed over to the reader after a brief authorial glance, a professional once-over which should never be mistaken – he seems to suggest – for a comment. Yet somehow that’s the perfect judgment in itself. It’s nothing as visible as a shrug, nothing as positive as an acknowledgement.”