Book Review: The Resurrectionist by James Bradley

Shocking, mind-boggling- incidents described in book, that are true!

Bookxpert Rating: 3/5

Genre: Historical Fiction

The Resurrectionist by James Bradley

Buy ‘The Resurrectionist’ now (paperback)
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Sometimes the worst prisons we build are not of stone...

Leaving behind his father’s tragic failures, Gabriel Swift arrives in London in 1826 to study with Edwin Poll, the great anatomist. But he finds himself drawn to his master’s nemesis, Lucan, the most powerful of the city’s resurrectionists and governer of its trade in stolen bodies. Dismissed by Poll, Gabriel is pulled into the sinister and mysterious underworld of Georgian London – and must make a journey that will change his life forever.


When I purchased this book, I took the meaning of Resurrectionist to be this: “a person who brings something back into use or notice again”. The blurb drew me in. So did the one-line review by Markus Zusak(author of The Book Thief, one of my favorite books) on the front cover-

Months after you’ve turned the last page, James Bradley’s words are still with you- brave, compelling, unforgettable.

This was a strange book. For the first few pages, it talked only of death and bodies being dissected for study, and I kept thinking the story would somehow move on from these topics and gather pace. But how could it, when the intended meaning of the word Ressurectionist in the title was this: “a person who steals bodies from graves, esp. for dissection”. It seemed that such things really used to happen, so I researched a bit more. You can read some articles on below links. I was frankly, shocked, on reading that all events described in the book were based on true facts, so gory were they!
Body snatching and ressurection was an actual profession in early 19th century England!

  1. The Era of Bodysnatching
  2. The Art of Bodysnatching
  3. The Ressurection men
Resurrectionists at work

Curiously, I now value the book more than I did before reading these articles. The author has done a good job with the era description, and the story, though it feels slow.
There is a quite a lot of gore in this book, so if you can’t stomach blood and bodies, you might want to give this one a skip.

Strangely, somewhere halfway through the book, I started anticipating the death of the main lead charcter, Gabriel Swift. It was almost like I was waiting for him to die and have another character take center stage. Such is the existence he has lead.
Also, there could have been better character development and background of all the characters, lead character included. In the entire book, Gabriel’s personality is shown as very reclusive, so I have not been able to understand his motives even after reading the entire book.

To become another man, it is a dreadful thing.’ When I do not reply he continues. ‘What is it that frightens you, Gabriel? What are you hiding from?’
‘Nothing,’ I say, too hotly, ‘nothing at all.’

The author has mentioned very little about other professions apart from resurrection/body-snatching and anatomy. Everyone that Gabriel meets seems to be either an anatomist or a body-snatcher, which further creeped me out. Were there really so many of them?

All through the book, we see the cheapness and fragility of life. Living humans have sold their soul to the devil everytime they sell a dead body to an anatomist. Life teetering on the balance beteen reality and dreams between drink and opium.

I, personally, did not particularly like this book. I have stated in an earlier post how I do not like stories with sad endings. In this book, it feels like the ending has been coming since a long time, and I could not wait for it come and go, hoping for something good after the ending!
Funny, I know.
Neverthless, it is a good one and will be liked by someone who likes this genre.

About the author:

James Bradley was born in 1967. He has twice been named as one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelists. He lives in Sydney.

What’s good :-

  1. The realism of the events, even though I couldn’t believe this could happen till I read extra documentation on this.
  2. The parts of the book that do not involve blood and bodies, which, admittedly, are few and far in between.

What could have been :-

  1. Lesser gore in the story.
  2. For me personally, a better and brighter life for the lead character.
  3. Better character development for the rest of the characters.

Other Stuff :

The Title:- Referring to body snatchers who used to operate in England in the early 19th century to provide dissection bodies to anatomists.

Best Line :- …this life is so thin, so small, it might be lost in a moment without thought? That the worst prisons that we build are not of stone, or even space, but of our own making? That nothing done may ever be truly undone?

Genre :- Historical fiction
Final Thoughts :- If you like historical fiction of 19th century England, or are a doctor, and can take gore in your stride, read this one, else give it a miss.
Up Next :- ‘Catching the Last Tram’ by Susan Holt.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Resurrectionist by James Bradley

Add yours

    1. Thank you Shalini..! I am always amazed at your reading speed.. Read sometime back that you do a book a day! That is craaazy!
      The next one you’re going to love I promise… I’m working on the review still.. It’ll be out asap!

      Liked by 1 person

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