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The Clerkenwell Tales (2003)

de Peter Ackroyd

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7482222,043 (3.37)37
'I am sister to the day and night. I am sister to the woods.' Sister Clarisse, a nun in the House of St Mary at Clerkenwell, experiences visions. She dreams of the English King. Are her prophecies the babblings of the crazed? Or can she 'see' a future in which Henry Bolingbroke overthrows Richard II? This clever and colourful novel begins with The Nun's Tale, and continues with The Friar's Tale, The Merchant's Tale and The Clerk's Tale-. Thus, story by story, Peter Ackroyd builds his portrait of medieval London. The people are disenchanted by the Church, with its wealth and corruption, its Pope in Rome and its Pope in Avignon. But heresy is dangerous- almost as dangerous as rebellion. This is a novel about spies and counter-spies, radicals and idealists, murderers and arsonists, sects and secret societies...… (més)
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» Mira també 37 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 22 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Very disappointed; the reviews on the cover led me to expect great things. The author obviously knows a lot about medieval London, which provides a few weeks interesting moments, but the book's structure is actually a major weakness in my view. The chapter headings lead you to believe you are getting something akin to the marvellous Canterbury Tales. However all it does is keep introducing more and more characters who are involved in some way with a dastardly plot that I never got to grips with. I soon got confused as to who all these people where, who was deceiving who and why. I was also unable to identify with a single character; the one who started to emerge as a sort of hero was not allowed to continue in this role beyond a couple of chapters.
I have Peter Ackroyd's London on my shelf to read; I have heard good things about it; it is a much bigger book so I hope the reviews are right this time. ( )
  Patsmith139 | Mar 15, 2021 |
"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 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 22 (següent | mostra-les totes)
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.
afegit per KayCliff | editaGuardian, 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.
afegit per KayCliff | editaTelegraph, 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.
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[[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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'I am sister to the day and night. I am sister to the woods.' Sister Clarisse, a nun in the House of St Mary at Clerkenwell, experiences visions. She dreams of the English King. Are her prophecies the babblings of the crazed? Or can she 'see' a future in which Henry Bolingbroke overthrows Richard II? This clever and colourful novel begins with The Nun's Tale, and continues with The Friar's Tale, The Merchant's Tale and The Clerk's Tale-. Thus, story by story, Peter Ackroyd builds his portrait of medieval London. The people are disenchanted by the Church, with its wealth and corruption, its Pope in Rome and its Pope in Avignon. But heresy is dangerous- almost as dangerous as rebellion. This is a novel about spies and counter-spies, radicals and idealists, murderers and arsonists, sects and secret societies...

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Mitjana: (3.37)
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