Ashton Hall

Ballantine. Jun. 2022. 416p. ISBN 9780593359495. $28. F
Belfer (And After the Fire) explores timeless ideas of family, sacrifice, and female resistance as her protagonist rediscovers herself and the life she imagined. Hannah Larson put aside her dreams of moving to England and becoming a museum curator to take care of her son, Nicky. Upon invitation from her ailing uncle Christopher, the mother-son duo travel to Cambridge to stay in Christopher’s home, a renovated manor house that serves as a home, museum, and place of business for several unique characters. Hannah arrives in England anxious about the state of her marriage and her abilities as a mother to a child who is neurodivergent. When Nicky finds the skeleton of a 16th century woman within the walls of Ashton Hall, Hannah is thrown back into the world of research she abandoned. Belfer parcels out information in a way that creates anticipation and frustration, and the labyrinthian portrait she paints of the home successfully conveys mystery and adventure.
VERDICT With a strong sense of place and thorough research, this novel is a celebration of the academic work that goes into uncovering historical puzzles. For lovers of libraries and Tudor history.
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