Browsing at the library I came upon a Mary Stewart novel I hadn’t heard of. Thornyhold. Of course, I couldn’t resist picking it up and putting it on top of my To-Read pile. It’s a small novel, only 212 pages and I read it in two sittings. Published in 1988, Thornyhold is one of Stewart’s last – her first was Madam, Will You Talk? in 1955 – and this is very different from the romantic suspense stories for which she is known and loved. Gilly Ramsey inherits Thornyhold, a remote cottage, from her mysterious godmother Geillis. Now alone after the recent death of her father, Gilly plans to start a new life at Thornyhold. As she explores the cottage – its mysterious attic which doubles as a pigeon loft, a still room for drying herbs and making herbal cures – she learns more about her benefactor. There are more questions than answers. As a child, Gilly had always found Geillis enigmatic; she appeared when Gilly seemed to need her, one time producing a crystal ball from her bag. Now, as she meets her new neighbours, Gilly learns the history of the house and her godmother’s reputation as a herbal healer. But was she more, a witch or wise woman? Although odd dreams, a barking dog and strange messages sent by carrier pigeon, unsettle her, Gilly has an inner belief that she belongs at Thornyhold. Nothing will make her leave.
Having recently a read a lot of contemporary novels with dense repetitive emotional description and complicated plots, reading Thornyhold felt like drinking a tall glass of water when desperately thirsty. Such a wonderful turn of phrase, clever and thoughtful, but accurate and never over-done. Gilly meets a neighbour who she describes as having smooth rosy cheeks and ‘the wrong red too thick on a small mouth,’ and I know exactly what she means.
Beautifully written, not a word out of place, not a character too many. Delightful. An instant favourite.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE ABOUT ‘THORNYHOLD’
Click the title to read my reviews of other Mary Stewart novels:-
THIS ROUGH MAGIC
TOUCH NOT THE CAT
THE GABRIEL HOUNDS
If you like this, try these:-
‘The Diabolical Bones’ by Bella Ellis
‘Ferney’ by James Long
‘The Good People’ by Hannah Kent
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THORNYHOLD by Mary Stewart #BookReview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Rn via @SandraDanby