As World War II ends, Harry and his two older brothers Jack and George return to Hartgrove Hall, their family estate in Dorset, a crumbling manor deteriorating from a lack of funds and the army’s recent occupation. The boys have an intense connection to the place, but its decrepit condition and the lack of resources to maintain it make the outlook bleak. Despite their father’s wishes, the boys agree to take on the estate, running it themselves in the hopes of saving it. Jack brings his girlfriend, singer Edie Rose to stay and everyone, including Harry and George, fall for her charms. Harry, a budding composer, spends much of his time collecting folk songs, his head constantly consumed by music. The music proves to be a stronger pull than the responsibilities of estate management, and when Jack and Edie marry, Harry flees to pursue a life of music rather than continue to pine for his brother’s wife. In 2000, an aging Harry mourns the loss of his wife Edie. Their daughters and grandchildren cannot compensate for his loss, although things do brighten when his youngest grandchild, Robin, turns out to be a piano virtuoso who cherishes music as much as his grandfather.
This dual timeline sets up some engaging conundrums as we hop back and forth over the years. Ms. Solomons reveals the plot threads slowly and neatly, disclosing how the love triangle is resolved and how Harry merges his love of music with his love of Hartgrove. The pacing is slow but deliberate, and it’s with great curiosity that readers wait to hear how the characters reach their present states after such a turbulent beginning. The song collecting Harry does is fascinating and emphasizes how perfectly music, culture, and the land intertwine.
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