I just finished reading an ARC of Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer, and was utterly captivated by it.
Here’s the description of the book:
When a close relative falls ill, Hannah Larson and her young son, Nicky, join him for the summer at Ashton Hall, a historic manor house outside Cambridge, England. A frustrated academic whose ambitions have been subsumed by the challenges of raising her beloved child, Hannah longs to escape her life in New York City, where her marriage has been upended by a recently discovered and devastating betrayal.
Soon after their arrival, ever-curious Nicky finds the skeletal remains of a woman walled into a forgotten part of the manor, and Hannah is pulled into an all-consuming quest for answers, Nicky close by her side. Working from clues in centuries-old ledgers showing what the woman’s household spent on everything from music to medicine; lists of books checked out of the library; and the troubling personal papers of the long-departed family, Hannah begins to recreate the Ashton Hall of the Elizabethan era in all its color and conflict. As the multilayered secrets of her own life begin to unravel, Hannah comes to realize that Ashton Hall’s women before her had lives not so different from her own, and she confronts what mothers throughout history have had to do to secure their independence and protect their children.
I love historical fiction and though it’s set in the present, Ashton Hall delved into the past as well. I appreciated the many layers to the story…from Hannah, to the health of her Uncle Christopher, to the challenges of her son (it’s never actually disclosed but it’s hinted that he is on the spectrum), to the mystery surrounding the skeleton and the history of Ashton Hall. While there’s a lot going on, it never felt like too much and was never difficult to follow along.
I devoured this book. And as I got closer and closer to the end I read more and more slowly, because I didn’t want it to end. I sympathized with Hannah, cheered her on, felt as if I knew her. The characters are all well developed and (mostly) likable.
If you like mysteries, or history, or reading about Cambridge, or just enjoy a well written book…be on the lookout for Ashton Hall June 7, 2022!
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing, and especially to Lauren Belfer for writing the book.