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by Mary Stewart

Heroine: everywoman


       Life can be difficult for an only child raised by strict religious parents, and this was certainly the case for Geillis Ramsey who had no friends (not even a pet) to call her own for most of her young life.


          Fortunately what Jilly does have is a fairy Godmother of sorts; her mother's cousin who keeps an eye out for her interests even as she is traveling the globe.  She makes certain that young Jilly is provided for when her parents leave her alone in the world as a young woman with no real prospects.  She gives her Thornyhold, a beautiful old Georgian House that once belonged to a witch named Goody Gostelow, which becomes a refuge for the poor young Geillis. 


          But how truly safe is she at her new shelter?  A disturbing dream, messages from the great beyond, and neighbors who send out mixed signals as to whether or not they want her there leave Geillis wondering about the sanctity of her new home and the sanity of her mind.


What worked for me:

            For the most part this is a very gentle pastoral story filled with lovely descriptions of a time gone by in the countryside of England 50+ years ago when not all houses had phones, neighbors dropped in to clean your house with you, and herbal remedies were more trusted than doctor's prescriptions. But the first few chapters about Geillis as a child, which were necessary to show why she is the way she is and add depth to the story, were decidedly sad in several places.  


            Size-wise Geillis wasn't really described, but her neighbor was a fairly large woman.


What didn't work for me:

           Because of its idyllic pace it didn't have me on the edge of my seat the way I expect a gothic romance should.  In fact the romance and even the suspense in "Thornyhold" were very mild, almost secondary even, so that I think the book seems more like a light paranormal fiction than a gothic.




               A very sweet story worth indulging in, especially if you are a fan of witches and/or gardening.


Warning:   There are a few references to the occult in this novel.


If you liked "Thornyhold" you might also enjoy "Aunt Dimity and the Duke" or "The Dancing Floor".


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