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Ashenden: A Novel by Elizabeth Wilhide

Ashenden: A Novel (edition 2013)

by Elizabeth Wilhide

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1471081,427 (3.68)12
Title:Ashenden: A Novel
Authors:Elizabeth Wilhide
Info:Simon & Schuster (2013), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Ashenden: A Novel by Elizabeth Wilhide



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Very agreeable novel about the history of an 18th century house, starting with the 21st century brother and sister who inherit it and then, in chapters that begin in the 1700s and work to the present, follow the house from it's origins as a pile of golden-brown stones and some architectural plans through it's heyday as a fully functioning estate and the many many people whose lives it impacts.

( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
This book is very good from a literary standpoint, and just from a "good stories" point of view. I guess it is Michener meets Downton Abbey. It almost sagged for me in the middle, but then pulled through. What I loved about it was that the house was a character in its own right, and I liked that the stories had a point through the ages. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
When brother and sister Charlie and Ros learn that they have inherited their aunt's palatial English country house, they must decide whether to keep it or sell it. Ashenden has been in their family since the eighteenth century and is steeped in family history. As the siblings survey the effects of time on the estate's architectural treasures, a beguiling 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. The walls of Ashenden echo with the lives of the architect who directs the building of the house in 1775; the wealthy and affluent Henderson family in their heyday; the maid who is tempted to solve her problems by stealing a trinket; the Jazz Age speculator who hosts a fabulous treasure hunt; the prisoners held there during World War II; and the young couple who lovingly restore it in the 1950's.

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 create a richly beautiful tapestry, full of humor, heart, and poignancy.

I absolutely loved this book. It was the type of story that I didn't want to end. I have always loved stories about houses and their histories; and this book was no exception. Elizabeth Wilhide is a new author for me and this is her debut novel, although she has written many, many books on interior design. I give this book an A+! ( )
  moonshineandrosefire | Mar 30, 2014 |
Ashenden is a charming historical read that concerns itself with the generations of owners and servants living in a manor house built in the English countryside in 1775. Beginning in the present when siblings Charlie and Ros inherit Ashenden upon the death of their great aunt, it meanders back to when its foundations were first carefully chosen and laid. Charlie and his sister must decide whether to sell it, or keep it for future generations of their family to enjoy. Charlie is happily married and settled in the United States, and sees the expense of the old mansion as prohibitive, but Ros is determined to save it, and has mapped out what she thinks is a plausible plan for its restoration.

Wilhide fills the story with history and atmosphere - the novel and its vignettes show the house in war time, poverty and at the height of its glory. Even as Ashenden, the novel explores how former owners have gained and lost the house and surrounding property, Ashenden itself is the star of the show, so much so that its almost pointless to bother getting attached to the people who live, work and die there. Their stories are picked up on a whim and dropped just as quickly, with some coming to more satisfying resolutions than others. Home restoration and architecture are prominently considered within the narrative, and readers who enjoy those details will find them in this pleasant, though rambling meditation on the history of a historic house. ( )
  daniellnic | Sep 25, 2013 |
What an absolutely brilliant idea for a book! Elizabeth Wilhide has taken the chequered history of Basildon Park (Netherfield in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaptation), building and owners, and turned the soul of a beautiful house into a series of nuanced vignettes, or short stories really. The modern day chapters which frame the story of Ashenden Park are perhaps the weakest, but I loved reading each and every segment, from the tragic tale behind the construction of the house in the late eighteenth century through to the war years, when Ashenden becomes a convalescent home during the First World War and a training ground in the Second.

Authors who 'borrow' from history tread a fine line - some can bring a famous biography or a notable building back to life, while others simply cannot weave a fictional narrative that stands up to the obviously inspirational source material. Wilhide hits the nail on the head - far from feeling that the real star of the story is Basildon Park, I feel that I now know more about the history of the original building from her creative reimaging of house and the people who lived there. All her characters are finely drawn, like housemaid Dulcie and her family, and she manages to fit a lifetime into a short chapter.

For those expecting a potboiler in the style of Downton Abbey, this might miss the mark, but for anyone into the true heritage of England's country houses, Elizabeth Wilhide has captured the 'beating heart' of a monument to past glory. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Jul 28, 2013 |
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Book description
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 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 for their own ends. Each chapter is skillfully woven into the others so that the story lines 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.
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An epic saga of the upstairs and downstairs residents of an English country house which spans some 240 years and includes the stories of its original architect, a Victorian family that shared four decades of family history, soldiers billeted in the house during World War I, and a young couple who restores the house in the 1950s.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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