The Song of Hartgrove Hall
- By Natasha Solomons
- 400 pp.
- Reviewed by Herta B. Feely
- January 4, 2016
A complicated tale of sibling rivalry set against the backdrop of a once-grand English manor.
This novel is the perfect mid-winter read, especially if you’re a “Downton Abbey” fan. Curled up in front of a fire, you won’t want to stop turning the pages once you begin, so time your read carefully.
Bestselling author Natasha Solomons has delivered yet another enthralling tale that takes place in the English countryside, this time in and around Hartgrove Hall, a manor once beautiful and stately. After World War II, however, when the family reconvenes, the place is falling apart. The three brothers — the eldest being the presumed heir — vow to save and restore it while their rather cantankerous father, the General, is adamantly opposed to the idea but gives them a limited period of time to prove him wrong.
However, even among the brothers all does not proceed without conflict, internal and external. The Song of Hartgrove Hall is a complicated story of sibling rivalry, not the least of which is a triangular romance that’s anything but predictable. Solomons seems to have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to music, because this story is also about the art in a variety of forms, including a man in search of unrecorded English folk songs, a child piano prodigy and a woman who was England’s musical muse during the war.
The novel alternates between the period shortly after the war and events 50 years later, upon the death of the protagonist’s beloved wife. (That’s not a spoiler, as you know this from the opening lines.) Our tale-teller, Harry Fox-Talbot, is a gifted composer and the youngest of the three brothers. He falls impossibly in love with his eldest brother’s girlfriend, Edie Rose, England’s wartime singer.
Their secret affair spans much of the book. After her death, Harry falls into depression until his 4-year-old grandson visits him and Harry discovers a new reason for living, as he appears to have a child prodigy on his hands.
There is redemption in this story, too, as we learn about events that propelled Harry to flee Hartgrove Hall and abandon his brothers in their efforts to save their home from ruin. Very much a story of family, filled with complicated relationships and the Fox-Talbots’ many trials and tribulations, this novel will not disappoint.
You’ll be on the edge of your seat wondering how things can possibly work out. Will they? Of course, but how?
Just as in Solomons’ bestselling The House at Tyneford, this novel spans several decades, and includes a great British manor house and characters who at their core love music. Whether you’re already a fan or a newcomer, this story will capture your mind and heart.
Herta B. Feely is an editor and ghostwriter and author of the forthcoming novel Saving Phoebe Murrow, a story about imperfect mothers and how social media can go horribly wrong for young teens, Phoebe Murrow in particular. Feely’s short stories and memoir have been published in literary journals and anthologies.