For Downton Abbey Fans: Ashenden Q & A and Giveaway
Downton Abbey season 3 aired here in America last Sunday and what a delight it was. This show has cast a spell on us. There is something so mesmerizing about that grand English country house and its inhabitants. Well for all fellow Downton fanatics I have a marvelous book recommendation for you...
Ashenden, by Elizabeth Wilhide, is a positively mesmerizing book about 240 years in the life of an English country house. Each chapter in the novel shares a historical slice of life in the magnificent Ashenden.
The story starts off in present day England with brother Charlie and sister Ros, who have inherited Ashenden from their aunt. Suddenly met with the enormous financial burden the house brings with it, but also intrigued by the prospect of perhaps keeping it, the brother and sister are at odds over what to do with it. While we wonder about the fate of Ashenden, we are taken back in time with a fluid interwoven storyline as we get to meet the people who inhabit the house.
Ashenden is a delightful read. I felt very attached to the house by the end of the book and didn't want it to end!
I was lucky enough to interview the author, Elizabeth Wilhide, who gives us more insight to the book below. And be sure to check out the end of this post to see how you can win a copy of Ashenden for your own library!
What inspired you to write Ashenden?
Ashenden is based on a real house, Basildon Park, which I visited – almost by accident – in the spring of 2008. My husband and I were intending to visit a garden nearby, which turned out to be closed, and we ended up at Basildon instead. I knew I wanted to write about it as soon as I set foot in it and felt the insistent tug of its symmetry. I knew I had to write about it when I read the guidebook and discovered how closely its changing fortunes mirrored that of the country’s history.
How did you research the different historical periods you write about in the novel?
I’ve made my living as a writer on design, interiors and architecture for many years, so I already knew how this type of house would be decorated and furnished and how it would be used at any given period– that was a tremendous help! A few of the stories in the novel are closely based on real events associated with Basildon Park; most use the house as a springboard for my imagination. Chance research online led me to a site detailing POW camps in Britain during World War II, which was a thrilling discovery and became the starting point for the chapter Hut C.
Do you have a favorite historical period?
In terms of design, I love the clarity and elegance of the Georgian period. But social history in general has always fascinated me – what people wore, what they ate, how they worked, how they survived times of change…
What can you tell us about the state of many of these historic English country houses today?
Unlike Basildon Park – and its fictional counterpart – many country houses were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s. Years of decline, death duties and the depredations of the war years simply made them too expensive to maintain. Sadly, one ended up as hardcore under the M1 motorway. Many of those that remained were saved by the National Trust and opened to the public. Today, income from visitors is often not enough to run these places and they have had to fall back on other sources of revenue. Basildon, for example, featured as Netherfield in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and the location fees helped pay for essential repairs to its stonework.
What is your writing routine?
My day starts with the Guardian cryptic crossword – it’s my commute! Then it’s chiefly a question of avoiding or failing to avoid distractions, including demon Twitter. Ashenden was written in my spare time, in the evenings and at weekends. At present, I’m trying to get my imagination to switch on earlier in the day…
What's next for you?
I’m about a third of the way into a new novel set largely in London during World War II. I’ve always been drawn to this period and I’m particularly interested in the gap between the myth-making that went on during this period and what actually took place.
Thank you Elizabeth!
To win a copy of this book, please follow these guidelines:
1. Leave a comment below stating your first and last name (or last initial) and what city you are from (please note, due to restrictions, this giveaway is only open to US & Canada residents only).
2. Let us know in your comment what your favorite historical novel or movie is.
3. To be entered twice in the giveaway, either tweet about this giveaway, or post about it on your facebook page. Please let me know in the comments if you have done this so I will know to enter you twice.
The winner will be announced one week from today. Good luck!
Check out Ashenden on Amazon.
Find Elizabeth Wilhide on Twitter @EWilhide
News for Lessons from Madame Chic
♥ I am featured in the Charlotte Observer this week for an article called, The right 10 pieces can help you build the perfect wardrobe.
♥ Parisien Salon gives Lessons from Madame Chic a great review and they are doing a giveaway in their article called Twenty Lessons on Leading a Stylish Life.
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