So, this arrived in the post yesterday and I have the first world book blogger problem of beginning it, really liking it, and not having the time to read it.
Samuel Browne's wife has left him suddenly after three years of marriage. She invites him to 'go and live a better life without me'. He must start again, and alone.
And so it is that Sam finds himself deep in the English countryside in a cold but characterful old house, remote and encircled by hills, in the employment and company of an older, wiser man, a man as fond of mystery as he is of enlightenment. What is the purpose of the seemingly hopeless task set for Sam in the house's ancient library? What is the secret of the unused room? And where does a life lose its way or gain its meaning?
The combe is home to a truth born of fraud, a building made of light, and a family wrecked by recklessness: loss and love reverberate around the house and around the novel, providing pleasure, pain and purpose. Combe Hall is a house designed to honour and to enthral. And this very fine debut novel does exactly the same.
Although it's set in the modern day, the writing has a flavour of a 19th Century novel about it, and with the big old house and it's mysterious inhabitants it's got atmosphere in spades. The publishers are making comparisons to The Secret Garden, which is fair.
I'm really quite intrigued by this one. All I need now is to have less to do.