I don’t normally write throwaway reviews, but in this case I’m kind of compelled to as I feel reading this has left me with a mindset similar to that of a drained-battery talking toy: all slurred nonsense and encroaching entropy.
That’s not what you want from something that, on the face of it, should be a ball-tearing recitation of forgery, counterfeit and outright literary bullshittery.
There’s portraits of famed fakes, that’s for sure: the early-dead Thomas Chatterton, the pugnacious James Macpherson, William Henry the Bard-fancier and poisoner Thomas Wainewright. But there’s a feeling of overly-academic stultification to the copy, and it’s difficult to follow a line through the text. Here’s a sample sentence.
Chatterton was always pictured as a youth with shoulder-length hair rather than as a young buck in a peruke; he was pictured as bright-eyed, even goggle-eyed in one posthumous portrait; of course there was his opium eating and, like Adam in Eden, his vegetarianism.
And that’s one of the better ones.
There’s too much uncertainty, too much bolstering with literary theory. I spent the first third of the book waiting for the slack to be taken up, for excitement to build, and it didn’t.
I gave this two stars because there is a goodly amount of research and reference in here. There’s no doubt Groom has spent a lot of time researching his subjects: it’s just that without the apparent hand of an editor, the book is unable to escape the author’s weight of words.