Ellie Jacobs – Before her marriage to Clive, Ellie was a librarian, but now she is a housewife. She has little in the way of self esteem due to a fraught relationship with her mother. With no children to care for, Ellie spends her days writing poetry and wandering Exmoor. It is on just such a jaunt that one day she wanders into the ‘Harp Barn’ and meets Dan Hollis, the harpmaker.
Ellie’s marriage is not unhappy as such – it is just… empty. When Dan Hollis gives Ellie a harp and her husband tells her to ‘take it back‘, she does, only to learn that Dan says it is HER harp, and that he will store it for her. She begins visiting Dan, and her harp, on a daily basis – then she begins taking harp lessons.
“But now I’ve found a warmer place, with music, heart and breathing space.”
Dan Hollis – at thirty-three years of age, Dan has led a somewhat sheltered and reclusive life. This is the way he likes it. He is guileless and has many quirks, though he is very aware of his own strengths and weaknesses. It is obvious to the reader that Dan must have Asperger’s syndrome. He is a man of simple routines, he counts everything, he avoids social situations, and he loves going for solitary walks and communing with nature. But most of all… Dan loves to make harps. Music soothes his soul and he turns to it when he is troubled, grieving, or anxious.
“Music helps fill up the holes that people leave behind.”
A warm and delightful read, I thoroughly treasured my time spent on Exmoor. The novel has a keen sense of place due to the author’s intimate knowledge and affection for her home.Told via the alternating perspectives of Ellie and Dan, the story was heart-warming, poignant, humorous, and up-lifting. I particularly appreciated the chapters written from Dan’s point of view as his was such a uniquely different, and pure perspective. The addition of ‘Phineas the Pheasant‘ added some levity and interest too.
Some would frown upon Ellie’s attraction to Dan – mostly because she is married, and also because of his Asperger’s. I on the other hand, disliked Ellie’s husband from the beginning, long before she ever met Dan, so I was routing for Dan and Ellie to get together. I wondered how, if they did every become a couple, they would meet the challenges Dan’s Asperger’s would present to their lives.
A story about friendship, deception, human connection, appreciation of music, and being true to yourself.
This is a ‘feel-good’ novel that will stay in my heart for years to come.This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. I read this author’s second novel before this, her debut. This is a title from my NetGalley backlist which I should have read and reviewed ages ago… my apologies to the author and the publisher.
ISBN: 9781984803788 – ASIN: B07KVK5F5Q – 336 pages
Hazel Prior is a harpist and novelist based in Exmoor, England. Originally from Oxford, she fell in love with the harp as a student and now performs regularly. She’s had short stories published in literary magazines and has won numerous writing competitions in the UK. “Ellie and the Harpmaker” was her debut novel and “How the Penguins Saved Veronica” then “Call Of The Penguins” were her second and third respectively.
Follow Hazel Prior on Twitter @HazelPriorBooks
or, visit her official website: https://www.hazeltheharpist.co.uk/