I have a sneaking regard for the reading public’s star rating on Amazon’s reviews; rarely does it fail (I have theories about Amazon review scores which I might share one day). The Resurrectionist averages forty-four percent, which I think is a little generous. However, there is a decent story within the book that’s dying to get out.
|Irresistible, isn't it?|
Set in 1826, the narrator is main protagonist Gabriel Swift, apprentice anatomist, the day-to-day business of which is beautifully rendered, if somewhat gruesome, in the first chapter. However, the first person perspective fails to deliver for Bradley. Throughout the novel, we get no sense of Swift’s personality from the narration (think the opposite of Holden Caulfield), and the start to some chapters feels very third person omniscient.
We follow Swift in this near-linear story as he falls foul of colleagues, resurrectionists and whores, descending into the most unconvincing opium habit ever, and finally attempting to reconstruct his life abroad. Thinking about it, the title is misleading: Swift is a resurrectionist for no more than ten percent of the book’s three hundred and thirty three pages.
|Shelley's inhuman character had more personality than Gabriel Swift|
There is a general lack of characterisation throughout, including the protagonist-narrator. With Swift, we start off feeling neutral about him, and then, as we read on, we discover reasons to dislike him. Perhaps if we understood the motivations for his actions we might identify with him, but Bradley insists on telling us what to think instead of showing us, and in the end we just don’t care. The blurb promises a classic gothic antagonist in Lucan, but he turns out to be a damp squib.