Reviews for Ashenden

Booklist Reviews 2012 December #1
This is the story of a house. When British siblings Charlie and Ros learn they have inherited Ashenden, one of the finest late Palladian houses in the country, from their aunt, they are faced with a dilemma. Repair and upkeep would be prohibitively expensive, and the National Trust isn't interested, having shifted its priorities. What to do? Following this preamble, Wilhide leads the reader back more than 230 years to the arrival by barge of the fine Bath stone that will be used to renovate an old manor house in Berkshire. Succeeding chapters trace the house's history as the fortunes of its different owners rise and fall. As Wilhide notes in her acknowledgments, Ashenden is modeled on a real house (used in a recent Jane Austen film adaptation), which, instead of staying in the same family for generations, mirrored the times through its ups and downs. Continuity comes from the fact Ashenden endures. Readers intrigued by English country houses will enjoy this stately home tour, given from a variety of perspectives, both upstairs and down. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 November #1
Episodes in the life of a grand British country house, with its upstairs and downstairs dramas, add up to an unusual, engaging, Downton Abbey-esque saga. Fortunes are lost and gained, relationships forged and broken, individual fates briefly glimpsed then encountered again decades later as the centuries melt into each other in U.K.-based Wilhide's unusual debut. Architecture, social shifts, private lives and next generations are the running themes, with Ashenden Park, a magnificent Palladian stately home, as the beating heart and central location of the sequence of vignettes that starts in 2010, with the reluctant inheritance of the neglected pile by a brother and sister, and then shifts back to 1775 and the arrival of the golden Bath stone from which it will be built. Wilhide introduces Ashenden's architect and his gifted apprentice, who is killed in an accident during construction, and then the various owners: a spendthrift noble; a thrifty haberdasher; a property developer. But the servants are included too, the pregnant chambermaids and unfairly dismissed housekeepers. While much of the historical background might seem routine, Wilhide brings freshness and emotional depth to the snapshots and links them astutely. Oddly, the most modern scenes, though tidily interleaved, are the least memorable. A carefully crafted, touching historical that achieves exactly the right note of rewarding readability. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 October #2

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. Wilhide, author of more than 20 books on interior design, decoration, and architecture, does a terrific job of introducing the reader to the history of Ashenden, starting with a tragedy in 1775 and continuing with the house's construction through the two world wars and into the present day. The story jumps through the years--sometimes skipping a decade, sometimes a century--but each vignette is connected through the house and its residents, servants, neighbors, and visitors. Within these stories, we meet the original architect who puts his heart into this house's design, servants in desperation, happy families, and miserable couples, all against a historical background. VERDICT With its top-notch writing, strong character development, and excellent plot, this will be on the reserve list of Downton Abbey fans, historical fiction readers, and family saga buffs.--Marianne Fitzgerald, Annapolis, MD

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 October #3

Wilhide, an interior design and architecture writer, delivers a tedious historical exploration of an 18th-century English estate house in her debut novel. When Charlie Minton and his sister, Ros, inherit Ashenden Park (based on an actual estate in Berkshire, England) from their recently deceased aunt, they are forced to decide its fate., The house's history is revealed through chronologically ordered flashbacks, one per chapter. The unidentified narrator, however, focuses more on the people whose lives revolve around the house; each chapter begins with a quick look at the house during that particular period before following the characters who then inhabit it. Unfortunately, there is little to thread this series of short stories together other than the building itself. As the supporting characters barely resurface from one chapter to the next, they are hardly given a chance to develop, and though the house is the intended central character, the execution is too disjointed, leaving the reader uninvested in the story. Though the descriptions of time and place befit an author who has made her name in the design and décor world, Wilhide's ho-hum book lacks narrative tightness. Agent: Anthony Goff, David Higham Associates. (Jan.)

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