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The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd

The Clerkenwell Tales (original 2003; edition 2005)

by Peter Ackroyd

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7072120,050 (3.39)37
Title:The Clerkenwell Tales
Authors:Peter Ackroyd
Info:Anchor (2005), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 224 pages
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The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd (2003)


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English (19)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
"The Clerkenwell Tales," by Peter Ackroyd, is set in 1399 London; a young nun starts hearing the voice of God and she becomes a prophet, foretelling, among other things, the death of Richard II. Meanwhile, there are hidden groups of men, conspirators, working toward making the nun’s prophecies come true, by whatever means necessary…. This is a nicely constructed novel, modeled on Chaucer with each chapter being someone’s tale, or the part that individual plays in the overall plot - there’s even a Wife of Bath here! Ackroyd writes with a mixture of elegant prose and very earthy imagery, not unlike one might expect of 14th Century England, and the story itself is quite a lot of fun. His final chapter, “The Author’s Tale,” is actually comprised of his notes about the book, including what exists now in locations mentioned in the story; to be honest, I was never quite sure how much of his story is real and how much imagined. Fans of historical fiction will get a kick out of this one; recommended. ( )
  thefirstalicat | Oct 17, 2016 |
The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd - ok

Really not sure how to assess this. Peter Ackroyd picks such interesting subjects, but somehow I find him hard to read. Hawksmoor almost defeated me. This one was easier, but still not a quick read.

This is London at the turn of the century - 1399. Henry Bollingbrook is about to replace Richard II on the thrown of England, there are mysterious portents in the city and the citizens are restless and nervous. In amongst this there is Sister Clarice, a Nun in Clerkenwell who is having visions of the future.

Ackroyd tells the tale of these times in the style of Chaucer (although thankfully not in his language!) - each chapter told from someone else's perspective.

All very clever but it's not a period of history I know very well and I did find myself getting a bit confused. ( )
  Cassandra2020 | Jan 24, 2016 |
Modeled on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, this collection of closely-related tales, each told from its title character’s point of view, weaves a fictionalized account of the machinations placing Henry Bolingbroke on England’s throne.
  EverettWiggins | Apr 29, 2013 |
There are times when I see the blurbs on cover of a book I've just finished and wonder if I'd been reading an entirely different book. And so it was with Peter Ackroyd's The Clerkenwell Tales; a book that seemed to have all the elements of a good read but proved to be — if not a dud exactly — a big disappointment.

I chose this novel to represent England in my Reading along the Prime Meridian challenge. It's set in the heart of London in 1399 which was a tumultuous year in English history. King Richard II, a staunch advocate of the divine right of kings to rule, has his throne threatened by a revolutionary army led by Henry Bolingbroke. Bolingbroke is not the only one who wants to overthrow the King. Dominus, a clandestine group of high-powered officials that seems to be in league with an apocalyptic religious sect is similarly intent on causing mayhem. The atmosphere of fear and anxiety is exacerbated by a nun whose prophesies of Richard's demise are unleashed on a superstitious public.

Murder, arson, conspiracy. With a plot like that, how can a book fail especially when written by an author with a tremendous skill with period detail? Ackroyd doesn't disappoint in that respect. His descriptions of daily life, of meals and mystery plays, of footwear and headwear, of tooth sellers and medical potions turn the past into a fascinating though smelly present. Next time I'm feeling ill, I won't bother my local GP, I'll just follow one of the cures from the leech featured in Ackroyd's book:

'he was much discomforted by her heaviness of stomach and suggested she mix the grease of a boar and the grease of a rat, the grease of a horse and the grease of a badger's, souse the concoction in vinegar, add sage and then put it upon her belly."

The problem with this book is the way Ackroyd chooses to tell his story. Each of his chapters is named after a character from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Each of these characters has only partial knowledge of the plots and intrigues so what the reader experiences is a gradual revelation of the story. It's a clever idea, almost akin to the way witnesses in a trial contribute to the jury's understanding of the whole picture, but since none of the characters enters the story for more than a few pages it's difficult to get know them in anything more than a superficial way. It's such a shame because some of them have a lot of promise that is just bursting to be fully realised. But it never does. ( )
  Mercury57 | Feb 8, 2013 |
The very first thing you notice when you pick up Clerkenwell Tales is that the table of contents look a lot like the table of contents from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. This was definitely intentional. In fact, all of the characters are the same as Chaucer's only fleshed out a little differently than Chaucer. We start off with a deranged nun full of prophesy and a group of presumed heretics called the Lollards. The Lollards are a secret society of men who seek to overthrow the church, dethrone the king, wreak havoc across London. As a result, chaos will ensue for sure! ( )
  SeriousGrace | Oct 24, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
As usual, Ackroyd's learning is as impressive as his imagination, ranging from astrology and religious debate to the deep-rooted iconography that shaped the medieval mindset. But it is the description of daily life, of meals and mystery plays, of footwear and farting, which makes the past a smelly and fascinating presence.
added by KayCliff | editGuardian, Will Hammond (Aug 10, 2003)
The London of The Clerkenwell Tales is stalked by terrorists who use the most advanced explosives the 14th century can offer to destroy five churches, and the churches are chosen for the significance of their locations. Fans of Hawksmoor will recognise not only this theme, but also the subversive theology, the debate between reason and belief, the labyrinths under churches, the blackmail, the way gentlemen in taverns pee where they're sitting, and the purgative powers of flagellation.
added by KayCliff | editTelegraph, Tom Payne (Aug 4, 2003)
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Dame Agnes de Mordaunt was sitting in the window of her Chamber, looking out over the garden of the house of Mary at Clerkenwell.
[[Hamo] was trained as an illuminator in the scriptorium. He prepared the inks and the paints; he smoothed the parchments and drew lines upon them with rule and charcoal pencil. He learned to mix black and red, white and yellow. Then he was trained in the art of drawing outlines with a brush of squirrel hair. He was taught how to plaster the walls of the church in preparation for the murals; he would cover them with lime putty, rendered damp for the better retention of colour.
Hamo turned the corner of Paternoster Row, into the street of the illuminators and parchment-makers whose work was displayed all around him.
Here was a rich volume indeed, illuminated with great coloured capitals though which birds and monkeys ran. Jolland felt the vellum paper with his forefinger. "Every page takes the skin of a sheep. So here we have many flocks before us." He turned the page very carefully, in case one of them might crack or tear.
Cole Bateman, the miller for the convent of Clerkenwell, was kneeling in the north transept of St Sepulchre. He had just delivered twelve sacks of flour to the parish priest of that church; the priest had agreed to act as arbiter in the miller's dispute with the bailiff over that stretch of the [River] Fleet that ran between them. The bailiff had in turn presented him with a mastiff, since the priest had complained of roarers and masked men who seemed strangely drawn to the Newgate prison. The mill beside the Fleet was less thn a mile beyond the city gates, and Coke Bateman often drove his cart within the walls. For him it was a city of springs and streams. He had got so accustomed to the sound of water rushing beneath the mill that it seemed to him to be the sound of the world. He slept with the rush of waters, and awoke with their rhythms in his head. He knew the harsh and hasty sound of the Fleet, therefore, and compared it carefully and deliberately with the other rivers within the city. He recognised the soft sound of the Falcon sighing through reeds, the disturbed and excitable Westbourne with its hidden springs sending out competing currents, the slow and heavy Tyburn winding through marshes, the light Walbrook gliding over stones and pebbles, and the Fleet itself with its strong and sweeping central current running like a sigh through the city. And then of course there was the Thames, majestic, many-voiced, at one moment a mass of dark turbulance and at the next a gleaming sheet of light.
"If a man full penitent come to me and pay for his sin," [said the pardoner], "I will assoil him. Here is the authority granted me." The pardoner held up a sheet of vellum decorated with a great initial "I" in which monkeys clambered among vines. "If anyone gives seven shillings to Anthony's [St Anthony's Hospital, Threadneedle Street], I will bestow upon him an indulgence of seven hundred years. I am entrusted to do this by the pope himself." He rolled up the papal bull and carefully placed it within his bag.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0749386304, Paperback)

Clerkenwell Tales, The, by Ackroyd, Peter. 1st ptg. 12mo.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:11 -0400)

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The scene is London in 1399. The strangest and most interesting king in English history, Richard II, is on the throne. Over the past several years his reign has been troubled by peculiar signs and portents, and as the turn of the century approaches, there is talk of an apocalypse. Meanwhile a mad nun, who was born beneath the convent of Clerkenwell, is visited by visions of the future. As Sister Clarice's prophecies signal the beginning of dark days of reckoning and retribution, a mystery soon unfolds that involves a secret sect called the Predestined Men, who are plotting to overthrow the established Church, dethrone Richard, and set off explosions in churches in five parts of London; a double-crossing conspirator; and Sister Clarice herself.… (more)

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