Into the tightly closed society of Jerusalem comes John Holdsworth, a bookseller from London whose son and wife have both recently drowned. A renowned sceptic and author of a polemical pamphlet vigorously denouncing the existence of ghosts, he has been hired by Lady Anne Oldershaw, patron of Jerusalem, ostensibly to evaluate the college's library. In truth her concern is all for her son, Frank, an undergraduate at Jerusalem. Since encountering what he believes to have been the ghost of his friend's dead wife in the master's garden, Frank has lost his wits and been restrained in an asylum.
His mother is desperate that Holdsworth restore her son to sanity. Meanwhile there are several members of the college who would prefer it if Frank remained safely incarcerated for ever.
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Taylor leads us into the claustrophobic world of Jerusalem as though unpacking a series of Russian dolls, starting in London before slowly closing in on Cambridge, Jerusalem and, at the centre of the story, the sinister society at its heart. In his home by the Thames, Holdsworth's own experiences have taught him the harshness and venality of life. Forced to sell his failing business, he understands only too well the precariousness of existence and the desperate measures people will employ to keep what they have. In Jerusalem, with its fetid atmosphere of intellectual decay, everyone, from the master and his wife to the nightsoil man who empties the college privies, has their eye on the main chance.
The strict hierarchies of the period, social, financial and academic, constrain; but they also liberate, for a man who knows his place also knows how to exploit it to his best advantage. Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the Holy Ghost Club, an exclusive and enigmatic dining club for the richest of the undergraduates. In The Anatomy of Ghosts Taylor has captured, with his habitual economy and precision, the maelstrom of the 18th century and its myriad contradictions: In the s even the educated and sophisticated occupied a world bristling with ghosts and omens.
But, though the novel describes itself as a ghost story, it's not a book that will force you to go to bed with the lights on. Instead it is the haunting power of fear and regret that gives the narrative its particular tension.
The Anatomy of Ghosts: www.aloemixers.com: Andrew Taylor: Books
I am trying to be sensible and read the hundreds of other books on my kindle, some which have been waiting patiently to be read for some time, but am really struggling to disengage from his books. I absolutely adored The Roth Trilogy my first encounter with Andrew Taylor and didn't have high hopes for this as I thought nothing could surpass this utterly exceptional trilogy; but I should have had more faith as this is stunning. I am just love historical novels and totally immerse myself in them, especially when they are beautifully written and the writing flows effortlessly, like this one does.
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The book is set in in a University known as Jerusalem College, I won't cover any of the story as this has been covered by other reviewers, save to say that I really liked John Holdsworth and his efforts to uncover the truth of recent shocking events which had taken place at Jerusalem. I was so engrossed in the story I felt I had been transported back to that time and could visualise the terrible living conditions of the poor, together with the dress of the day; I honestly didn't want it to end. Wonderful and highly recommended. He accepts an invitation from a wealthy old lady to travel to Jerusalem College, Cambridge and investigate her son's sudden mental decline supposedly a result of his having seen seeing a ghost.
Once there he meets a cast of unique characters all invariably acting in their own self-interest which only serves to complicate matters further.
I had hoped this book would be a good ghost story, complete with spooky goings-on and veiled women floating down old corridors but I was to be disappointed. That said, the characters are well drawn and I was quite impressed by the dialogue, it can't be easy to recreate the rhetoric of years ago but Taylor succeeds. I also loved the love story between Hollingsworth and the Master's wife and this is despite my normally loathing love stories.
It was very deftly done with some truly delicate scenes between the two characters beautifully drawn. Overall a decent work of fiction that's main highlight for me was the exhibition of the snobbery of young rich men and the struggle not to mention servitude of their poor fellow students. Cambridge University , Jerusalem College in particular, and a long, hard look at the hedonistic lifestyle of mostly over privileged male students who seem to do anything but study.
Not everyone at the university is wealthy. Some of the students, boys on a scholarship, alongside college lecturers survive on a pittance. This impoverished group are further stressed by bullying and class discrimination handed down from the 'higher echelons'. Into this mix of over indulgence, poverty and eccentricity arrives the character of John Holdsworth a man recently widowed and now on a mission to find and help one of the students, Frank, member of the 'Holy Ghost Club' and son of an aristocratic family.
The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor – review
What emerges from here is a story of ghosts, murder and general 'shenanigans' amongst the university population. Is there a female spectre haunting the university?. If so then why?. That's all part of the mystery and the revelations are slowly and satisfyingly worked into the plot.
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None of these characters are particularly likeable with most of them out for little more than self indulgence and self promotion. Their university life, due to the era, is almost entirely male and one dimensional.
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Women are either mothers, wives, employers or ghosts!. A mentally frail boy and his widowed minder have a puzzle to solve before either is fully recovered. Maybe it's too late?. I enjoyed this book. The historical background is believable. Moments of dark creepiness built a sense of tension which kept me hooked.
Anatomy of a Ghost
Andrew Taylor is a very talented writer, and nowhere is this better demonstrated than in this book - where he sets us down in late C18 London and Cambridge and makes the strange world we are in seem natural - without labouring the historical details as so many historical novelists do.
In some ways the book is an homage to the Woman in White - the central character, Holdsworth, was very reminiscent to me of Hartwright and aside from the ghostly story there is a major theme which revolves around a woman in white. The issue of madness, which pervades the book, is also an echo of that classic chiller. But the book is a fascinating thriller on its own merits - indeed while it sent me back to "The Woman in White" I have to say I much prefer this, which is pretty high praise!
The style of writing is as always with Taylor clear, accomplished and engaging. I was annoyed every time I had to put it down, and found the story was thoroughly well sustained - no bits which dragged or missed at all. A really excellent book. I won't re-tell the story; others have done that, but I will say that I started this novel on Monday evening, had to be prised away from it that night and the next, and stayed up until 1 am to finish it on Wednesday.
Like all of Andrew Taylor's work, this is a masterpiece of delightful, lyrical language; crisp, perfect dialogue that rings with the particular cadences of the time; an insight in the Cambridge collegiate system that is little short of breathtaking It feels like a ride down the Cam, but one far more gripping than any I have taken. See all 43 reviews. Would you like to see more reviews about this item? Most recent customer reviews. Published 9 months ago. Published 1 year ago.
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