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Martha Peake: A Novel of the Revolution (original 2000; edition 2001)

by Patrick McGrath

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267442,587 (3.35)10
Member:flanerie
Title:Martha Peake: A Novel of the Revolution
Authors:Patrick McGrath
Info:Penguin Books Ltd (2001), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:unread

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Martha Peake: A Novel of the Revolution by Patrick McGrath (2000)

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Di questo autore, ho adorato Follia. Così quando ho letto nella quarta di copertina "Forse il miglior romanzo di McGrath" l'ho comprato. Ma non è affatto il suo miglior romanzo, in realtà è un bruttissimo romanzo, privo di ispirazione, inutile, inverosimile. In alcuni passaggi francamente ridicolo. Anche fastidioso, se vogliamo.
Siccome anche Port Mungo mi era parso una sciocchezzuola molto forzata, comincio a pensare che prima e dopo Follia... il diluvio.
  Lilliblu | Aug 4, 2012 |
Martha Peake is a bit of a departure for McGrath. While it does have gothic elements and deals with mental aberration, that is not the focus. The focus is the story of Martha and Harry Peake, English father and daughter on the cusp of the American Revolution. The story itself is interesting, but I found the framework clumsy and obvious, something I’ve never encountered in a McGrath novel.

Spoilers ahoy-

Harry is a brash Cornish smuggler and is horrifically injured in a fire that kills his wife and most of his children. His broken back is set badly and he is disfigured for life and unable to work. In his depression and underlying need to punish himself for the tragedy he displays himself as a poetry reading freak to the locals. This catches the attention of a renowned anatomist Lord Drogo. They meet and the anatomist has evil designs on Harry’s twisted skeleton. With the help of his slimy assistant Clyte, Drogo ensnares Harry’s imagination and plots his downfall. He will do anything to acquire Harry as specimen.

At least that’s what we’re led to believe by our unreliable narrator, Ambrose Hill, the nephew of the former apprentice to said famous anatomist. At first we believe that the tale is largely true, but hearsay times two makes for a muddy tale. By the end, the line between what the nephew wishes to be true in his romantic heart and what might actually be true is completely shattered.

The basic facts hold however; Harry succumbs to drink and his binges bring out the worst in him. He literally goes out of his mind and attacks Martha, despite his intense love and devotion to her. She runs to the only place she can think of, Drogo Hall, and throws herself on the mercy of the apprentice, William Hill. Hill hides her in the house and turns Harry away when he comes looking. As a permanent solution, Hill arranges for Martha to sail to America to live with her aunt Maddy. Before she can flee, she goes to her father in the grounds, moved by his vigil outside Drogo Hall. He is drunk as usual and this time his attack is completed and Martha knows she is pregnant.

Once in America, she falls into the manipulative hands of her aunt’s husband Silas who immediately begins a plot to set her up. He totally plays her and once she’s married to his son, Adam, begins to put her in the line of fire, literally. It’s clever and totally heartless what he does to her. A martyr to the cause of the American Revolution. What a perfect symbol to keep morale high.

By now our nephew is completely in love with Martha Peake. He draws her story out of his elderly uncle and fills in the blanks himself. He’s so under the spell that Drogo still haunts his pile of a mansion and hears footsteps outside his locked door and keeps his pistol ready. Of course it isn’t Drogo who haunts the mansion, but Peake. Harry Peake. When he finally realizes the fact of this, his breakdown is nearly complete.

Overall this is a very good story; a tragedy through and through despite its flaws. ( )
  Bookmarque | Aug 20, 2008 |
Martha Peake: A Novel of the Revolution by Patrick McGrath was a big disappointment. I brought the book with me on a short trip because I had thoroughly enjoyed Asylum by the same author. That was a riviting, neogothic, psychological horror-thriller. This book is a strange mix of neogothic and historical fiction—something McGrath has never done before. Unfortunately, the author does not succeed in making these two genres work together. If I analyze the book in segments, they appear to succeed, but as a whole, the book did not hold my interest. Mostly, I was put off by the awkward way the author chose to tell the story. I could not get into either main character—the narrator or the historical character of Martha Peake. I was always aware of the narrator imagining and creating the history. I couldn’t focus on Martha’s story without thinking how the narrator could be getting her whole story absolutely wrong. Evidently, this was just what the author needed us to do; he wants us to question the story. In the end, there are some unexpected twists. But the telling was all too awkward and unconvincing. I got bored long before I finished, and I had to force myself to finish.

I do not recommend this book. But I like the author well enough to give him another try if he sticks to neogothic horror in a contemporary setting ( )
  msbaba | May 25, 2007 |
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Epigraph
In the beginning, all the world was America.

John Locke
Dedication
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It is a black art, the writing of a history, is it not? - to resurrect the dead, and animate their bones, as historians do?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375701311, Paperback)

"It is a black art, the writing of a history, is it not?" So begins Martha Peake, a gripping narrative that takes the reader back to London and America during the revolutionary epoch of the 1770s. Patrick McGrath's sixth work of fiction begins several decades later, when young Ambrose Tree is summoned to visit his dying Uncle William at Drogo Hall. Assuming that he is about to inherit his uncle's estate, he rushes across Lambeth Marsh to the great manor house. Instead, though, he's promptly drawn into his uncle's extraordinary story of Harry Peake and his headstrong young daughter, Martha.

Harry, "to whom Nature in her folly gave the soul of a smuggler, and the tongue of a poet," was a Cornish smuggler, horrifically mutilated in a fire that killed his wife and dispersed his children. Only Martha stood by him. As the story unfolds, she follows her father to London, where the self-anointed, poetry-spouting "Cripplegate Monster" displays his hideously deformed body in the taverns and watering holes of London's underworld. Soon Harry comes to the sinister attentions of Lord Drogo, who "wanted him for his Museum of Anatomy." As father and daughter are drawn into this gentleman scientist's world, Harry turns to drink, catastrophically abusing Martha and sending her fleeing to America, where she becomes embroiled in the struggle for independence from England. At this point, the story may seem to have wandered far afield. But as Martha Peake reaches its climax, Ambrose realizes that the fate of both parent and child is much closer to home than he could ever have imagined.

Practicing the black art of storytelling to near-perfection, Patrick McGrath has produced a wonderful tale of "sacrifice and abomination and heroism and resolve and victory." The book's darkness and intermittent grotesquerie will cement his New Gothic reputation. Still, Martha Peake belongs more arguably in the company of Charles Dickens, whose literary ghost haunts these pages no less powerfully than those of the tragic father-and-daughter team. --Jerry Brotton

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:38 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Fleeing the brutality of her father, poet and smuggler Harry Peake, Martha Peake sets sail for America, where she becomes caught up in the colonies' struggle for independence from Britain.

(summary from another edition)

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