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A huge book both in scope and length, it begins with the journals of a landscape gardener building a great park in 1663 then moves to 1961 and follows the lives of a large group of friends and extended family up to 1989. Complex relationships, infidelities, petty betrayals, great loves play out against the grand landscape. Occasional first person inserts by different characters add a depth to the narrative and a new perspective to the situations. The writing is lovely and now and then a turn of phrase would stop me in my tracks. It is a novel of parallels, AIDS to black plague, storm to change, sanctuary to prison, spying for Russia to informing for Cromwell. The psychological aspects of a wall; is it keeping something in or keeping something out? It’s a good read, a family drama on the surface but the literary style and symbolism means there is far more depth to it. A book of layers and levels, leading to unexpected places, just as the path through hedges will suddenly open to a stunning view. It is the first novel from a renowned historian and writer of non-fiction. Great stuff. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
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Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
'Unlike anything I've read. Haunting and huge, and funny and sensuous. It's wonderful' Tessa Hadley It is the 17th century and a wall is being built around a great house. Wychwood is an enclosed world, its ornamental lakes and majestic avenues planned by Mr Norris, landscape-maker. A world where everyone has something to hide after decades of civil war, where dissidents shelter in the forest, lovers linger in secret gardens, and migrants, fleeing the plague, are turned away from the gate. Three centuries later, another wall goes up overnight, dividing Berlin, while at Wychwood, over one hot, languorous weekend, erotic entanglements are shadowed by news of historic change. A little girl, Nell, observes all. Nell grows up and Wychwood is invaded. There is a pop festival by the lake, a TV crew in the dining room and a Great Storm brewing. As the Berlin wall comes down, a fatwa signals a different ideological faultline and a refugee seeks safety in Wychwood. From the multi-award-winning author of The Pike comes a breathtakingly ambitious, beautiful and timely novel about game keepers and witches, agitators and aristocrats, about young love and the pathos of aging, and about how those who wall others out risk finding themselves walled in.
'Unlike anything I've read. With its broad scope and its intimacy and exactness, it cuts through the apparatus of life to the vivid moment. Haunting and huge, and funny and sensuous. It's wonderful.'
'Peculiar Ground is so clever and beautifully written, it gripped me from start to end. I abandoned work and family to finish it.'
'Lucy Hughes-Hallett's novel is immensely vivid, full of rich and deeply imagined life, and glowing with energy. Her Wychwood estate is utterly real, her characters (both seventeenth- and twentieth-century) entirely convincing, and the story moves with a masterful assurance. There's a calm virtuosity in the language that I admired a great deal. I just enjoyed it so very much.'
Praise for The Pike:
'Hard to beat ... a biographical tour de force ... a rich, voluptuous treat ... a triumph, the biography of the year'
Robert McCrum, Observer, 'Books of the Year'
'[The Pike] dramatically extends biography's formal range to encompass a daunting theme
TLS, 'Books of the Year'
'This is a magnificent portrait of a preposterous character ... deplorable, brilliant, ludicrous, tragic but above all irresistible, as hundreds of women could testify. His biographer has done him full justice
Francis Wheen, Daily Mail
'A cracker of a biography, an extraordinary story ... In less skilled hands this could have been a disaster; in fact it works wonderfully well'
Spectator, 'Books of the Year'
'Beautiful, strange and original ... an extraordinarily intimate portrait
'Hugely enjoyable ... Hughes-Hallett has a great talent for encapsulating an era or an attitude ...That almost 700 pages flew by bears testimony to how pleasurable and readable those pages were'
'Hughes-Hallett dances her way through this extraordinary life in a style that is playful, punchy and generally pleasing ...The amazing story of D'Annunzio is painted in primary colours, but with the darkest shadows'
About the Author
Publication date18th May 2017
More books by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Author 'Like for Like'
PublisherFourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
CategoriesModern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
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