Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Ashenden by Elizabeth Wilhide is the story of a grand English house of that name. Professionally reviewed as a Downton Abbey clone, I found that it was not. The star of this book is the house. The story line follows the owners of the house from the very first idea of the grand house to the brother and sister who inherit it as the last of the family line.

The real story starts in 1775 with the family Mores, who commission the house. Great detail is given on how the house was designed and the stone work started. It was really quite interesting. The Mores never fully paid for the work on the house and never fully finished it either. A great big house with beautiful proportions, as it is described, the house limped along until the Henderson's bought it in 1844. They loved the house, finished it off and restored it. The story line is tied together through the people who inhabit the house: first the stone mason and architect, then a housekeeper, then actual family members and servants. The house survives through various wars, illnesses, family traumas and periods of neglect.

There are plenty of architectural terms describing the house - the author is an author of interior design and architecture books as well. Not the character driven story that Downton Abbey is, the book is a very  interesting description of a grand English manor house and its history.

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