English music

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Distributed by Random House, 1992 - Juvenile Nonfiction - 399 pages
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From the prize-winning author of First Light, Chatterton, and Hawksmoor - a dazzlingly inventive and powerfully moving novel about the intricate ties between fathers and sons, between inheritance and culture, and between our understanding of the past and our grasp of the present. In post-World War I London, on the stage of the out-of-the-way Chemical Theatre, Clement Harcombe and his young, motherless son, Timothy, perform acts of spiritual healing, their visionary skills lifting the weight of despair and failure from the shoulders of their small band of followers. For Timothy, a boy with remarkable psychic gifts, it is a thrilling apprenticeship, a wonderful life with an adored father. But in the eyes of the larger world, it is a wayward existence with a suspect parent. And when Timothy is abruptly removed from his father's side, from the familiar twilit world of phantoms and ghosts, and thrust into the simple world of his grandparents' home in the country, he is not too young to feel 'bereft of his past'. Yet nothing can remove him from the realm of his visions. And as he passes from a difficult childhood into a troubled adulthood - his father slipping in and out of his life - it is this other, private world that provides him with his only certainty. In his visions - unanticipated and wholly enveloping - Timothy is drawn into the creations of Charles Dickens and William Blake, Thomas Malory and Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan, Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Gainsborough and J.M.W. Turner. Accompanied by Merlin or Miss Havisham, William Byrd or William Hogarth, Crusoe's Friday or Wonderland's Alice, Timothy is swept across time and history. And as his mysterious journeys begin to illuminate theideas that have shaped them, Timothy comes to discern the power of the writer over his characters, the composer over what is heard, the painter over what is perceived - learns, finally, to hear the 'English music' his father described to him as a child. It is the workings of the English imagination through the centuries, Timothy's cultural heritage, inside which lies the key to his understanding, and his acceptance, of the often perplexing ideas and emotions that are his singular inheritance from his father. English Music is a tour de force of imagination and evocation - a startling, masterful novel from one of the most exciting writers at work today.

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User Review  - charlie68 - LibraryThing

A main plot woven with fantasy like experiences with English Literature, Music and Art. The main plot is a little thin, but the fantasy adds much needed colour. I found the English music theme tiring by the end. Read full review

English music

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

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 ... Read full review

Contents

Section 1
1
Section 2
27
Section 3
48
Copyright

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About the author (1992)

Peter Ackroyd was born in London in 1949. He graduated from Cambridge University and was a Fellow at Yale (1971-1973). A critically acclaimed and versatile writer, Ackroyd began his career while at Yale, publishing two volumes of poetry. He continued writing poetry until he began delving into historical fiction with The Great Fire of London (1982). A constant theme in Ackroyd's work is the blending of past, present, and future, often paralleling the two in his biographies and novels. Much of Ackroyd's work explores the lives of celebrated authors such as Dickens, Milton, Eliot, Blake, and More. Ackroyd's approach is unusual, injecting imagined material into traditional biographies. In The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde (1983), his work takes on an autobiographical form in his account of Wilde's final years. He was widely praised for his believable imitation of Wilde's style. He was awarded the British Whitbread Award for biography in 1984 of T.S. Eliot, and the Whitbread Award for fiction in 1985 for his novel Hawksmoor. Ackroyd currently lives in London and publishes one or two books a year. He still considers poetry to be his first love, seeing his novels as an extension of earlier poetic work.

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