Andalusian People

The Resurrectionist

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 October, 2008, 12:00am


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The Resurrectionist

by James Bradley

Faber and Faber, HK$120

When Faber and Faber learned that James Bradley's fourth book had been chosen by television book-club pundits Richard and Judy, the normally restrained publishers threw a party to celebrate their first 'summer read'. One can only speculate what alumnus T.S. Eliot would have thought of it all, but the words 'turn' and 'grave' spring to mind. The Resurrectionist, however, proves the TV presenters know a good story when their researchers see one. Set in 19th-century London, it tells a gloomily gothic tale of medicine, madness, sex and grave-robbing. Gabriel Swift arrives in London in 1826 to study at the feet of the great anatomist Edwin Poll. An orphan whose place in the world is tenuous, Swift is in the business for a father figure and soon finds one - not Poll, unfortunately, but his creepy nemesis, Lucan. When Swift loses his apprenticeship he falls into Lucan's clutches, committing murder and becoming a drug addict. The second part of the novel sees Swift attempt a resurrection of his own, in Australia. Suffice to say, his dark past comes back to haunt him. Elegantly written in concise, impressionistic scenes, The Resurrectionist offers a gripping morality tale, an intelligent examination of money and medicine and plenty of sinister thrills.