By Elizabeth Wilhide
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781451684865, 352pp.)
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
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A novel about people, a country estate, and living history
“The house contains time. Its walls hold stories. Births and deaths, comings and goings, people and events passing through. . . . For now, however, it lies suspended in a kind of emptiness, as if it has fallen asleep or someone has put it under a spell. This silence won’t last: can’t last. Something will have to be done.”
When brother and sister Charlie and Ros discover that they have inherited their aunt’s grand English country house, they must decide if they should sell it. As they survey the effects of time on the estate’s architectural treasures, a narrative spanning two and a half centuries unfolds. We meet those who built the house, lived in it and loved it, worked in it, and those who would subvert it to their own ends. Each chapter is skillfully woven into the others so that the storylines of the upstairs and downstairs characters and their relatives and descendants intertwine to make a rich tapestry. A beautifully written novel full of humor, heart, and poignancy, Ashenden is an evocative portrait of a house that becomes a character as compelling as the people who inhabit it.
Elizabeth Wilhide is the author of more than twenty books on interior design, decoration, and architecture and a coauthor and contributor of many more. Born in the United States, she moved to Britain in 1967, where she lives with her husband.
"This beautifully written debut novel takes us on a moving pilgrimage through the ups and downs of human nature, all within the walls of a historic English mansion. . . . With its top-notch writing, strong character development, and excellent plot, this will be on the . . . list of Downton Abbey fans, historical fiction readers, and family saga buffs."
"Engaging . . . A carefully crafted, touching historical that achieves exactly the right note of rewarding readability."
"Delightful . . . The beauty of Ashenden lies in the interwoven tales that move us carefully through the years at irregular intervals, giving us intimate glimpses into not only the people who occupied the house but inside the heart of the very building itself . . . well-written and vivid . . . thoroughly engrossing."
"Memorable, affecting . . . as beautifully constructed and lovingly adorned as its stately namesake."
"We are reminded of Brideshead Revisited . . . well observed."
"Ashenden is an engrossing debut by one of Britain's leading writers on design and interiors. This book is a sparkling jewel: full of fascinating detail, high drama and sly wit."
-Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire
“I adored this book; I saw it as a sort of love letter to a vanished way of life, and a slice of English history at the same time, tracing as it does the lives of all the people who lived in Ashenden, a beautiful English country house, for over two hundred years. It's very touching and very compelling.”—Penny Vincenzi, author of Another Woman
“A pleasurably subtle web of connections . . . a beguilingly effortless read.”
“An affecting, intelligent debut.”
“Rich and absorbing . . . personalities are sharpened by Wilhide’s fine ear for dialogue and her wry sense of humor. The novel’s real value lies in its detail, the patches of finely embroidered description, and in its subtle observation of behavior and tastes.”