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Ashton Hall: A Novel
by Lauren Belfer

Published: 2022-06-07T00:0
Hardcover : 416 pages
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An American woman and her son stumble upon the dark history of a rambling English manor house in this “masterful, riveting, and atmospheric” (Alka Joshi, author of The Henna Artist) novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Belfer.

“With vibrant prose, Lauren Belfer ...

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Introduction

An American woman and her son stumble upon the dark history of a rambling English manor house in this “masterful, riveting, and atmospheric” (Alka Joshi, author of The Henna Artist) novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Belfer.

“With vibrant prose, Lauren Belfer shepherds us through a centuries-old mystery and into a modern-day introspection on motherhood, marriage, and love.”—Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones

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.

“Infused with the brooding, gothic atmosphere of Jane Eyre or Rebecca” (Melanie Benjamin, author of The Children’s Blizzard) 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.

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Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

On a Sunday morning in late June, I waited with my son at the side entrance of a stately home near Cambridge, England. We stood on a stone bridge that spanned what was once a moat, the water drained, a grassy pathway beckoning at the bottom, the moat’s walls overgrown with greenery. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the author:

Neurodivergence plays a large role in the story, through Nicky’s character. How did this character impact you? Why do you think the author decided to create Janet as a second neurodivergent character? The author has said that Nicky is the hero of the story. Do you agree?

Discuss Hannah’s relationship with Nicky. Did you learn anything from it? Did you identify with their relationship in any way?

In chapter 3, Mrs. Gardner asks: “How many lives can you imagine yourself living?” This question sticks in Hannah’s head throughout the rest of the book, prompting reflections on her “alternate” life that could have been. Do you ever reflect on the other ways your life could have gone? Do you find it compelling, or stress-inducing?

What do you think of Hannah’s often humorous observations of British behavior? If you’ve spent time in the U.K., do you think they have the ring of truth? 

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

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  "Interesting, but a few too many themes"by thewanderingjew (see profile) 09/18/22

Ashton Hall, Lauren Belfer, author, Kristin Sieh, Jayne Entwistle, narrators
This is a multilayered story that takes place in the present time, but is very much interested in the past. As t
... (read more)

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