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Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

Thornyhold (original 1988; edition 1988)

by Mary Stewart

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1,126327,287 (3.63)70
Authors:Mary Stewart
Info:William Morrow and Co. (1988), Edition: Book Club (BCE/BOMC), Hardcover, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Modern English Lit., Writing by Women

Work details

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart (1988)

  1. 30
    Rose Cottage by Mary Stewart (loriephillips)
  2. 30
    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: Although I believe that du Maurier was the better writer, Thornyhold and many others by Mary Stewart give the same suspenseful feeling.
  3. 10
    A Winter's Tale by Trisha Ashley (allisongryski)
    allisongryski: They both have: An unexpected inheritance of a house in the countryside, a hint of historical witchiness, and a bit of romance. The quality of writing is better in Thornyhold, but A Winter's Tale was a fun, light read with some similar plot elements.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Gilly has a lonely childhood in the north of England between the two WWs, and foresees a long, lonely adulthood for herself. But then her father dies, and her godmother Geillis leaves her a house and garden in Thornyhold. Geillis always had an air of mystery and magic about her, and so does her house. Gilly begins exploring her godmother's herbologies and the woods around the cottage, but interruptions by her various neighbors leave her both unsettled and intrigued. Led by occasional messenger pigeons and flashes of memories that aren't her own, Gilly begins to piece together the puzzle her godmother left behind.

I loved this book. Gilly is a delicately painted, nuanced character who feels perfectly real and quite familiar. The plot dances between moments of darkness and warm bucolic romance. And the setting! I fell absolutely in love with Stewart's England, with its bramble jelly and cats falling asleep in front of the Aga. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
*sigh* This book is a new favourite. It's gentle and simple and wraps around you with it's sights, sounds and smells. I'd love to live at Thornyhold, tending the garden, reading books by the fire, taking bike rides through the trees through all seasons, feeding the birds in the attic.

It's an idyllic book, perfect for the naturalist in all of us--the writing is beautiful and atmospheric. Nothing much happens in the book, but it rocks you into the story like a hammock on a summer's day. The conflict and conclusion with Agnes at the end gave me a laugh and I related closely with Gilly, and was happy at her blossoming, finally finding a place where she belongs and is appreciated.

The sweet ending made me smile:

"So the witch-story turned into comedy, and the midnight enchantments faded, as they usually do, into the light of common day. The only reason I have told it is because a little while ago I overheard one of my grandchildren, turning the pages of my first illustrated herbal, say to her sister:

"You know, Jill, I sometimes think that Grandmother could have been a witch if she had wanted to."

and on that note, I closed the book gently and put it back on the shelf. I'm very glad this was my first Mary Stewart book, and it certainly won't be my last. ( )
1 vote ShyPageSniffer | Feb 11, 2016 |
Geillis moves to Thornyhold, a secluded house that belonged to her mysterious cousin. There the locals wonder if she might be a witch. There's a fair amount of suspense in this well-written book. A pleasant light read. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
This is a story told by a woman looking back at her life. She tells of her lonely childhood when she was neglected by her parents and bullied at her boarding school. She tells of the life she lived as a pastor's daughter in a dirty, ugly coal town. She tells of the few, magical visits by her godmother.

She also tells what happens when she inherits Thornyhold after that same godmother's death. She describes the beauty of the house, gardens and countryside. She also describes her interactions with the local witch who is her rival for the affections of a widowed author who lives nearby. This story also tells us about how she fell in love with that same author and his young son.

Woven into the story are some magical elements. Her godmother was a herbalist and maybe she was also a witch. And maybe Gilly herself has inherited the potential to be a witch too. It describes incidents that could be magical in nature but could also have natural explanations.

The book is set in the time just after World War II and in a part of England that is still very much behind the times. She travels by bicycle and doesn't have a telephone. Until her arrival and her encounters with would-be witch Agnes Trapp, no one ever locked their doors and neighbors felt free to just walk in. Mentions are made of rationing and coupons though shortages aren't as noticeable in this rural area.

This was a quick read. It had lovely descriptions and lyrical writing. It was definitely a gentle Gothic romance. ( )
  kmartin802 | Jun 21, 2015 |
I love reading about magic in a story when it’s so subtle that you're not sure if what you're seeing is really magic. Alice Hoffman is a great author for doing this and the way Stewart wrote the “magic” in the story was pretty similar. And really the magic is what the mystery of the book is. Is what’s going on around Gilly really some kind of magic from her godmother and neighbors or is it something that can be rationally explained away?

But really the mystery took the backseat in the book. This was more of a coming of age story for Gilly.
As for the romance, I really did enjoy it. Christopher John was a sweet guy and he suited Gilly, but I felt he could've been a wee bit more developed. His son, William, kind of stole his thunder. I always say that I don't like children in books, but I'm beginning to realize that I don't mind children in books as long as they have an actual purpose to being in the book. What I hate is when a kid is inserted just for cuteness factor and serves no real purpose to the plot. ( )
  Book_Minx | Jan 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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Enter these enchanted woods,
You who dare.
Nothing harms beneath the leaves
More than waves a swimmer cleaves.
Toss your heart up with the lark,
Foot at peace with mouse and worm,
Fair you fare.
Only at the dread of dark
Quaver, and they quit their form:
Thousand eyeballs under hoods
Have you by the hair.
Enter these enchanted woods,
You who dare.
--George Meredith The Woods of Westermain
To the memory of my mother and father with love and gratitude
First words
I suppose that my mother could have been a witch if she had chosen to.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
There was only one part of Gilly Ramsey's lonely childhood that was magical-the visits from her godmother, Geillis Saxon, an extraordinary woman with special powers. When Geillis died suddenly, the grown-up Gilly inherited Thornyhold, Geillis's charming cottage in Wiltshire, and went there to live in the lovely English countryside.

But nothing had prepared Gilly for the strange enchantment she was about to discover-sinister neighbors, messages from beyond the grave, and even the whisper of love. Just as Gilly began to return the love of an attractive stranger, the inexplicable aura of suspense and witchcraft surrounding Thornyhold turned all too real and far too dangerous...
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0449217124, Mass Market Paperback)

This old-fashioned gothic romance is as good as they get. When Gilly's witch aunt leaves Thornyhold to her, a house in the middle of the woods, Gilly finds that she has inherited far more than she realized. Along with the house comes a cat, a still room filled with herbs (and a missing recipe book), an attic chamber with carrier pigeons (who have secret messages), and an attractive neighbor whose young son offers the sacred and unique blessing of friendship. But Thornyhold possesses far more than even these simple offerings. The place itself seems to convoke otherworldly gifts as well: Gilly cultivates the abilities to heal and to foresee the future once she makes Thornyhold her home. (For those fans of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, there is a Geilis the witch in this book, too.)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:50 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When Gilly's aunt leaves Thornyhold to her, a house in the middle of the woods, Gilly finds that she has inherited far more than she realized. Along with the house comes a cat, a still room filled with herbs (and a missing recipe book), an attic chamber with carrier pigeons (who have secret messages), and an attractive neighbor whose young son offers the sacred and unique blessing of friendship. But Thornyhold possesses far more than even these simple offerings. The place itself seems to bestow otherworldly gifts as well.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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