Home—Hoxton, London, England. Agent—St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
Novelist and journalist. Royal Court Theatre, London, England, former stage manager; Time Out (magazine), former film editor; Times, London, former deputy literary editor and arts editor.
Caravaggio, Picador (London, England), 2002, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
The Green and the Gold, Picador (London, England), 2003.
Christopher Peachment has written two novels featuring historical figures from the arts. In Caravaggio Peachment tells a fictionalized version of the life of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, an Italian artist who lived in the sixteenth century. The Green and the Gold is an account of seventeenth-century British poet Andrew Marvell's life. Both novels are written in the first person and rely less on historical fact than on Peachment's creative invention.
Caravaggio takes the larger-than-life story of the real artist and renders it with enthusiasm. According to Keith Miller in the Times Literary Supplement, Peachment "takes some bold leaps in the small matter of plot." In Peachment's story, the promiscuous and bisexual Caravaggio frequents prostitutes and taverns, drinking and brawling and even murdering a man.
While much of this story is consistent with the known facts of Caravaggio's tumultuous life, Peachment also creates entirely fictional incidents based on possibility rather than fact. The novelist asserts that in the 1580s Caravaggio had a love affair with Giordano Bruno, a fellow artist history does not record he ever met. Bruno's eventual execution by the Catholic Church for heresy, Peachment's novel alleges, led Caravaggio to a strong anti-clerical stance which spurred a conspiracy against him by church leaders. A critic for Kirkus Reviews dubbed Peachment's version of events a "crude and bumptious story of a true life treated with great liberty." Josh Cohen was even more enthusiastic in his review for Library Journal, writing that in Caravaggio Peachment "creates a lively character," while Miller concluded that "Peachment's story certainly inclines towards the swashbuckling."
The Green and the Gold is Peachment's fictionalized account of the life of Andrew Marvell, a British poet of the seventeenth century. As in Caravaggio, Peachment plays loose with the facts. While history records little about Marvell's personal life, it is known that he held a number of political positions during his career. Peachment's story of Marvell's life casts him as a government spy involved in secret behind-the-scenes machinations. "This may be because," Michael Caines noted in the Times Literary Supplement, "Peachment is more interested in espionage and the secret history of seventeenth-history England than poetry." In addition, Peachment employs a vocabulary often inappropriate for the time. Not only does Marvell use words not yet invented, he quotes authors born after his death. "The story," Richard Cavendish explained in History Today, "is told with sardonic humour from an openly present-day slant in prose laced with deliberate anachronisms.… Remarkably, it works." Similarly, John Mullan in the London Guardian concluded that "it is all absurd, yet oddly enjoyable. The novel is written with a careless, carefree gusto. It is really a kind of mock-historical novel—the Restoration seen through disrespectful eyes."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Guardian (London, England), April 26, 2003, John Mullan, review of The Green and the Gold.
History Today, May, 2003, Richard Cavendish, review of The Green and the Gold, p. 88.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, review of Caravaggio, p. 340.
Library Journal, April 1, 2003, Josh Cohen, review of Caravaggio, p. 130.
Times Literary Supplement, February 22, 2002, Keith Miller, review of Caravaggio, p. 21; January 31, 2003, Michael Caines, review of The Green and the Gold, p. 22.*