Catherine Gaskin first published this book in hardback in 1974 and now it is available for the first time as an ebook.
With a magnificent but gloomy ancestral home in need of repair; an elderly retainer by the name of Tolson, set in wild moor land on the edge of a national park in Cumbria; mix them together with a bit of mystery, intrigue and romance, and what do you get? The makings of a brilliant story.
The story centres around Thirlbeck, home of the Earls of Askew. The 18th Earl, Robert Birkett, has reluctantly returned, needing money and has asked his old school friend, Gerald, to visit with the purpose of valuing and selling off the art and antiquities. Gerald has worked for Hardy’s, a large auction house in London for many years and mentors a young woman called Joanne. She accompanies him to Thirlbeck, acting as his assistant and driver. Her life is more interwoven with Thirlbeck than she ever imagined. The house and farmland now need vast amounts of investment to restore the estate to its former glory.
The characters are wonderful, especially Tolson, a strange man, just the sort of character you would expect to find in an old house such as this. Tolson has cared for the house for many years in the absence of the Earl and in many ways looks upon it as his home, with his own relatives employed on the estate.
This book, although of its time, is so well written. The descriptions of the characters, the house and the surrounding countryside are quite evocative. Gaskin describes everything in great detail, but that doesn’t prevent the reader from using their imagination. I particularly like the pack of family pet dogs, interwoven in the story, who became almost mystical in their behavour. The story builds slowly and inexorably, with many twists and turns.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading other Catherine Gaskin ebooks.