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Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

Peculiar Ground

by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

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This book deals with the near and distant past of an estate - from the religious divides of the 17th century to the upheavals of the 20th. It is atmospheric and all encompassing - the characterisation is weaker than the description, and the mythic overtones not quite strong enough to knit the baggy monster together. I'd heartily recommend, nonetheless as a perfect summer holiday read..
  otterley | Jul 15, 2018 |
Oxfordshire in 1663 and the exiled Lord Woldingham has returned to claim the family estate Wychwood. As part of this he commissions Mr Norris to design and implement grandiose grounds including a wall surrounding the estate. The state itself is home to aristocracy and servants, dissenters and people who believe in witchcraft and the wall tries to isolate them from the Plague. Three hundred years later and Wychwood is still isolated from an increasingly fraught world, as the inhabitants live their lives they become aware that in Germany another wall has been built to isolate a community. Later, as the Berlin Wall falls, a journalist is given refuge from those who preach hate.

For most of this book I struggled to engage with the intertwining stories but for the last third I was completely enthralled. The narrative is sandwiched by the seventeenth century events and the final section explained so much of the initial section. The twentieth century episodes were harder to follow, simply because of the large cast of characters and the intertwining storylines, but the metaphors were exceptionally strong. This is a very different sort of novel and extremely hard to categorise but that is its strength. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
This is a wonderfully quirky and clever novel. The main character is the house and grounds of Wychwood in Oxfordshire and the central theme is walls. The story begins in 1663 when a wall is built around the house to keep those inside 'safe'. The tale then leaps forward in time to 1961 when the Berlin Wall suddenly appears almost over night, and then time hops again to 1973 and again to 1989 when big changes are occurring in the world and walls are broached.

There are a lot of allegories and parallels in this enchanting, shall we call it, parable. Walls can keep us safe or divide us, even isolate us to a certain extent. We can also build a wall around ourselves. I think it is quite relevant to the present time, too. It has a lot to tell us. There are usually chinks in walls and we should bear in mind there is a whole wide world out there waiting to be explored and bridges to be built!

It is beautifully and vividly written. Some of it is told almost like a fable. The grounds of Wychwood are so easy to imagine. It has a magical and otherworldly feel, a peculiar ground indeed. What a fabulous place to live or visit! I love the map at the front of the book. It really helps with visualising where everything is. There are some brilliant characters and, as in a lot of country estates, the families seem to stay through the generations, the same name recurring.

I found this story so captivating. I absolutely loved it! I was very sorry to turn the last page. Wychwood and its peculiar ground is well worth a visit!

Many thanks to Lovereading.co.uk for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book. ( )
  VanessaCW | Apr 8, 2017 |
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"It is the seventeenth century and a wall is being raised around Wychwood, transforming the great house and its park into a private realm of ornamental lakes, grandiose gardens, and majestic avenues designed by Mr. Norris, a visionary landscaper. In this enclosed world everyone has something to hide after decades of civil war. Dissenters shelter in the woods, lovers rendezvous in secret enclaves, and outsiders--migrants fleeing the plague--find no mercy. Three centuries later, far away in Berlin, another wall is raised, while at Wychwood, an erotic entanglement over one sticky, languorous weekend in 1961 is overshadowed by news of historic change. Young Nell, whose father manages the estate, grows up amid dramatic upheavals as the great house is invaded: a pop festival by the lake, a television crew in the dining room, a Great Storm brewing. In 1989, as the Cold War peters out, a threat from a different kind of conflict reaches Wychwood's walls. Lucy Hughes-Hallett conjures an intricately structured, captivating story that explores the lives of game keepers and witches, agitators and aristocrats; the exuberance of young love and the pathos of aging; and the way those who try to wall others out risk finding themselves walled in. With poignancy and grace, she illuminates a place where past and present are inextricably linked by stories, legends, and history--and by one patch of peculiar ground." -- Amazon.com.… (more)

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