‘An engrossing debut…a sparkling jewel: full of fascinating detail, high drama and sly wit’ Amanda Foreman
‘Lively interlinked historical vignettes display distinct post-Downton commercial savvy…a pleasurably subtle web of connections…a beguilingly effortless read’ Daily Mail
‘An affecting, intelligent debut which goes way beyond post country house antics’ Guardian
‘I adored this book; I saw it as a love letter to a vanished way of life…Very touching and very compelling’ Penny Vincenzi
‘A compelling saga’ Woman’s Own
‘The author has skilfully held together a complex tale with numerous characters and has also imbued each vignette with faultless historical details’ Country Life
‘Absorbing social history…sharpened by Wilhide’s fine ear for dialogue and her wry sense of humour Financial Times
‘A panoramic view of English family life…any reader who loves history and houses will enjoy this verbal magic lantern show’ Charlotte Moore
‘Meaningful, fresh storytelling is combined with a celebration of English design in this delightful read’ We Love This Book
‘Author of the Month’ on All About You. Read an interview with me here and find out how Ashenden came about.
Read my Q&A on Gransnet
Find Ashenden on Amazon
August 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm
Have just read and absolutely loved Ashenden! Just my kind of book as I, too, am intersted in architecture and design (especially of the Georgian period.) This is a truly splendid novel with some lovely turns of phrase. I was most moved by a chapter towards the end, The Winter Season (2010). What a wonderful character Reggie was! Each successive chapter was written in the style of the day, and you managed to capture the mood of the moment in just a few appropriate words, such as “George Ferrras, sitting in his silk dressing gown in his Bayswater flat …” Somehow, this was perfect late 1920s, very Noel Coward, but a little more declasse than, say, Knighsbridge or Kensington; or the description of the Harley Street consulting rooms, so very 1950s, with “back copes of Punch, the hunting prints, and the oatmeal-coloured wallpaper …” I shall most certainly buy your other novel and hope that there will be many more to follow. Oh, and I shall buy the guide to Basildon Park as now I want to see more photos of this house, even though I have Simon Jenkins’ 1000 Best Houses.
August 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm
I’m so thrilled you enjoyed the book and thank you so much for taking the time to tell me why! It’s wonderful to have direct reader feedback. I pretty much fell in love with Basildon the moment I saw it and hope you will be able to visit it too one day.
August 18, 2012 at 10:05 am
Both husband and I love visiting old houses and gardens. A favourite is Coleton Fishacre here in South Devon. This house was built, as you might already know, for Rupert and Lady Dorothy D’Oyly Carte as their summer residence. Legend has it that they were sailing close by and decided that that would be a lovely part of South Devon to build a house and create a garden – as you do! – and that is exactly what they did. The architect was Alistair Milne, an associate of Lutyens, and the garden was even quarried for the stone for the house, so small wonder it looks right in it’s setting, with Delabole slate for the roof.
Indeed, we are blessed in Devon with many properties which, while not the great houses such as Chatsworth, Blenheim, Longleat, Woburn, each has a unique quality – we love to visit Knightshayes Court, not especially for the Victorian Gothic interior but for the ‘garden in a wood’ and also we love Castle Drogo which isn’t a castle at all, built for Julius Drewe on a promontory above the Teign gorge (and designed by Lutyens.) Towards Plymouth we have the glorious pile of Saltram, with it’s Tudor core and 18th century Adam makeover, and at Exmouth, the quirky 16-sided A La Ronde, built for two spinster cousins in which they could house their vast collections from the Grand Tour which, for them, lasted 10 years!
A house I fell in love with, as you did with Basildon, is Kingston Lacy in Dorset. We have visited on about three occasions, and the history of the collections in this wonderful house is in Anne Sebba’s book, The Exiled Collector.
February 8, 2013 at 5:47 pm
Loved this book! I am very poor with words and find it hard to express myself but you did an amazing job of moving through 200 years! Each chapter ended abruptly but I knew exactly what happened. Look forward to reading more from you…..