Harry, Daniel, and Sam Hanway were born in Camden Town, a postwar estate in London. Each of the brothers share a birthday, born exactly one year apart. Life however for the boys was not easy, and while once close, as they get older their lives move in different directions. They live lives entirely apart from each other, and yet their lives intersect in a myriad of ways seen and unseen.
I thought that this book started out strong. I liked Ackroyd's writing style and was interested to see what happened to the Hanway boys after a defining moment early in their life. However, as the story progressed I began to feel less engaged. You never really get to know any of the brothers, but it felt almost as if the author was intentionally holding the reader at arm's length. I personally found Harry and Daniel unsympathetic characters. While I don't need to like a character to enjoy a book, if I'm going to like the book, then I least need to be able to engage with the character and due to the author's style, I was unable to do so. The addition of supernatural elements that really went nowhere also detracted from my overall enjoyment. I couldn't quite understand why he included these details as it didn't really add much to the story line, were never explained, and in the end left me confused as to their purpose.
Despite these flaws, I didn't dislike the book. It had some redeeming qualities that kept me reading. I thought the mystery of the critical event that defined their lives was handled well, and I was interested to see how the plot line concerning one of the secondary characters played out. The author's knowledge of London is quite evident, and allowed him to vividly bring the city to life. I've seen a lot of criticism for the number of coincidences and connections that the three brothers shared despite their separate lives, yet for me that was one of the novel's strong points. It added something to the overall atmosphere and claustrophobia of the novel as it moved towards the denouement. I am still puzzling over the ending three days later, and if a book can still have me thinking about it several days after completing it, then it definitely has merit.
Overall, I think this was a good book, but it had some major flaws that impacted my enjoyment. It was my first book from Ackroyd, and while not a raging success, I am interested enough that I'll be sure to try another of his books in the future.