The past and present converge in this contemporary story with roots in Tudor England. American academic Hannah Larson paused her career to raise her brilliant, neurodiverse son. They’ve moved to England, where he has found a walled-in skeleton in their gothic manor house. As Hannah searches for clues to the woman’s life, she finds details that mirror her own. A terrific novel of historical fiction with a modern twist.
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.
About the Author
Lauren Belfer is the New York Times bestselling author of And After the Fire, winner of the National Jewish Book Award; A Fierce Radiance, a Washington Post Best Novel and NPR Best Mystery of the Year; and City of Light, a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal best book, a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, and an international bestseller. Belfer attended Swarthmore College and has an MFA from Columbia University. She lives in New York City.
“Exquisite . . . The way the author has weaved several storylines together is brilliant.”—Mystery and Suspense
“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 a manor home.”—Alka Joshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Henna Artist
“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, this is at its heart a story 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, 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 Children’s Blizzard
“Belfer’s latest is a brilliant, immersive story about one woman searching for answers after 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 by a lively cast of locals who had me laughing out loud. The novel is rich with intrigue and historical detail, and a stunning achievement.”—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace
“Belfer explores timeless ideas of family, sacrifice, and female resistance. . . . The labyrinthian portrait she paints of [Ashton Hall] successfully conveys mystery and adventure. . . . For lovers of libraries and Tudor history.”—Library Journal
“[Ashton Hall’s] strength comes from the archaeological details (did you know that the pigment that creates red hair is the slowest to break down?) as well as the grace and attention given to both Hannah and Isabella—two women separated by hundreds of years but bound by a common humanity. A touching story about the themes that resonate through centuries.”—Kirkus Reviews
“In the well-crafted latest from Belfer, Manhattan art historian Hannah Larson puts her career on hold to give her son, Nicky, who suffers from violent outbursts, the constant care he needs. . . . Belfer offers a nuanced exploration of the ways women’s lives are constricted. Anglophiles and Tudor history buffs will enjoy this immersive tale.”—Publishers Weekly
“[Belfer’s] exquisitely illuminated story offers the vicarious indulgence of a stay at an English country house combined with an Elizabethan-era mystery and a meditation on women’s age-old struggles between independence and motherhood. . . . Belfer shows how history is a tangibly close presence.”—Booklist