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An American woman and her son stumble upon the dark history of a rambling English manor house in this gripping novel that marks an exciting new departure for the New York Times bestselling author of City of Light.
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.
In the tradition of The Clockmaker’s Daughter and The Lost Apothecary, and rich with female passion, strength, and ferocity across the ages, Ashton Hall is a novel that reveals how the most profound hauntings are within ourselves.
Praise for Ashton Hall
“Ashton Hall is going to have wide appeal … I would put this on anybody’s must-read fiction list.”
—Pamela Klinger-Horn, Thoughts from a Page Podcast, May 6, 2022
“Belfer’s latest is a brilliant, immersive story about one woman searching for answers to a terrible discovery from centuries earlier. The captivating threads of the plot – an English manor house with secret rooms and a dark past, a mother struggling with her atypical son – are rounded out with a lively cast of locals who had me laughing out loud. Rich with intrigue and historical detail, and a stunning achievement.”
—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace
“Lauren Belfer’s Ashton Hall is masterful, riveting, and atmospheric historical fiction. It made me want to don a velvet cloak, brew a cup of tea, and settle in to watch Hannah and her ingenious son unravel the fascinating, dark, centuries-old secrets of the manor home.”
—Alka Joshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Henna Artist
“With vibrant prose and fine-tuned psychological acumen, Belfer shepherds us through a centuries-old mystery and into a modern-day introspection on motherhood, marriage, and love. A virtuosic tapestry of cultures and eras, woven with exquisite precision and detail.”
—Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones
“In Ashton Hall, Lauren Belfer has treated us to a novel infused with the brooding, gothic atmosphere of Jane Eyre or Rebecca. And like those classics, at its heart this is a novel about a woman’s journey of self-discovery. How does a wife and mother reclaim her dreams when her world is turned upside down? In her quest to learn the identity of a skeleton entombed in the heart of a British manor house while dealing with her troubled son and straying husband, Hannah Larson tries to piece together the puzzle that has become her own life. This is a novel that must be savored, one page at a time.”
—Melanie Benjamin, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Aviator’s Wife and The Children’s Blizzard