“Sophisticated and erudite…. Ms. Hughes-Hallett is a natural heir to A.S. Byatt, delivering a densely patterned novel that shimmers with human interest as it probes our cultural story.”



This is the story of a home, Whychwood, a large estate built in the 17th century. The story will take place in the 1600’s, 1960’s, 1980’s, then back to the 1600’s. The story begins when a man named Norris is hired to build gardens, lakes and a wall around the large property to offer the owner seclusion and complete privacy. But the wall will shut out Catholics who live in the forest away from persecution and live off the land.

Tragedy’s will occur on the property, and these tragedies will also occur in the 20th century parts of the story.

When the story jumps to the 60’’ it is also the time that the wall is being built in Berlin, and the correlation between the separation of people from this wall, and to the wall at Wychwood is plain to see. When the story jumps to the 80’s the Berlin Wall is now coming down and the problems at Wychwood which still separates the rich from the local villagers comes to a head when a private rock concert is planned by the family within the walls, excluding the locals, and disaster is about to strike. The story returns to the 1600’s to finish the story where it began.

The characters in the story are the usual roundup of characters, almost putting a thirty something feel to the story. There is the married couple that own the Estate. Their lovers, a homosexual who thinks he is hiding his true identity, a possible spy, and of course the offspring of the married couple as they grow up and go through the same problems their parents did.

The parts that deal with historical events are well told and very interesting. At 477 pages, in my opinion it was a little too long for the story it had to tell. There are many characters to keep track of, and at time I found my mind wandering while I was reading about them, necessitating many Rereads of passages. For those who like a long detailed story you should find this book very satisfying. For those like me, a little disappointing, especially because the historical parts of the book are terrific


Reviewed by:

Richard Franco

Added 31st May 2018

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Richard Franco