The Clerkenwell Tales

Peter Ackroyd
The Clerkenwell Tales

Visionary nuns, religious terrorists, rival popes, and aspiring kings all feature in THE CLERKENWELL TALES, a medieval thriller par excellence…

‘Such detailing is as exquisite as the corners of old paintings, as one would expect from Ackroyd, with the city’s sights, smells, colours and sounds carefully recreated; but what surprises most is the rumbustious pacing. Whereas Chaucer’s tales can often feel like tableaux, The Clerkenwell Tales roars and leaps through the London streets with thrilling energy. Ackroyd has abandoned the stateliness that sometimes accompanies his prose for a more appropriate form to the time, and the result is tremendous… It is unlikely that the reader will ever have experienced such total immersion into the reek and bustle of medieval London. Ackroyd is a wonderful guide and torchbearer, bringing light to the darkest corners of humanity.’ Independent on Sunday
‘A truly extraordinary feat of historical imagination.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Ackroyd’s ‘colour’ is so curious, so rich and so variegated that there is something in almost every sentence to sharpen one’s sense of late 14th-century London as squirmingly alive — and extremely pungent… a cunning little intrigue.’ The Spectator

‘Religious extremism, suicide bombings and an invading army known only through a veil of propaganda and conspiracy theories: although such things may seem a present and frightening reality, the closest many of us have come to them is by reading about them at a distance of hundreds of miles. In Peter Ackroyd’s latest book, we come closer to experiencing this world for ourselves, although this time at a distance not of miles, but of 600 years. … 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. … Like Chaucer, Ackroyd sees literature and history as part of the same tradition, wherein the author retells and rejuvenates the stories and events of his heritage, combining historical authority with literary license. … Peter Ackroyd suggests that what is strange may soon seem familiar and, more importantly, that novelty is not the only thing that makes a novel.’ The Observer

‘The Clerkenwell Tales is the latest example of [Ackroyd’s] virtuoso mastery of his subject matter.’ The Seattle Times


  • Chatto & Windus UK
  • Nan A Talese USA
  • Editions Philippe Rey France
  • Edhasa World Spanish
  • Meulenhoff NL
  • Knaus Germany
  • Zysk Poland
  • Livanis Greece
  • Teorema Portugal
  • Folio Ukraine
  • Media Serbia
  • Corpus Russia

Material: finished copies (206pp)