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3.31  ·  Rating Details ·  840 Ratings  ·  203 Reviews
A novel about people, a country estate, and living history...

"The house contains time. Its walls hold stories. Births and deaths, comings and goings, people and events passing through... For now, however, it lies suspended in a kind of emptiness, as if it has fallen asleep or someone has put it under a spell. This silence won't last: can't last. Something will have to be
Hardcover, 339 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2012)
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Read in place of watching Downton Abbey
26th out of 201 books — 98 voters
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Downton Abbey-esque Books
203rd out of 510 books — 914 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Mar 10, 2013 ☮Karen rated it really liked it
Basildon Park is an actual Georgian mansion with acres of lawn and gardens, which was rescued from ruin in the mid 1950s. If you read this book about a house called Ashenden, you are essentially reading about Basildon Park. If you saw the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, this house hosted the Netherfield Ball. The author formerly has written decorating books; this is her first novel.

The whole story about the building of the house, finding and transporting the immense Bath stones
Shelley Fearn
Jan 22, 2013 Shelley Fearn rated it it was ok
Shelves: for-women
As a lover of period dramas (need I mention Downton Abbey?) I was anxious to sink my teeth into a book tracing the history of a country estate.

I had time this weekend and purposely had kept this book to have a good relaxing read with a glass of sherry and classical music in the background. Then I started the book. What a disappointment.

It was a collection of vignettes highlighting the history of the house from 1775 to the present. Wilhide failed to tie the components together with any depth. The
Katherine Gypson
Jan 19, 2013 Katherine Gypson rated it it was amazing
It's funny how a book can sometimes find you during just the right set of days. I usually read one book a week and end up starting a new one over the weekend. Last Sunday, having finished all of the available books in Phillip Rock's "Passing Bells" trilogy and craving more books along the lines of "big English country house" stories, I remembered that I had an advance e-galley of yet another book marketed to Downton Abbey lovers.

As much as I love Downton Abbey, the comparison to Ashenden isn't
Apr 23, 2013 Kathleen rated it really liked it
A friend of mine recently dealt with the sale of her childhood home, dating to the late 1700’s, disposing/relocating her 100 year old mother’s 70+ years of collections, memories, sagging floors, failing heating system, faulty wiring - all within the constraints of the local historical preservation society. Against all odds, a young man and his partner bought the house and is restoring it, honoring its past, affirming its place in the future, and I can’t imagine the cost.
All this is to establish
Rory O'Connor
Jan 06, 2013 Rory O'Connor rated it really liked it
Ashenden is being marketed as a novel for fans of Downton Abbey. This is accurate in regards to the novel’s focus on a grand old house and its inhabitants. However, it is also more than simply a grand house and a grand family. The novel is composed of a series of short stories involving the inhabitants (of all social standing) of the house. Each story is linked by characters and, of course, the house itself.

Elizabeth Wilhide is an acclaimed author on design and interiors. This is evident in the
Mar 23, 2013 Éowyn rated it it was ok
Shelves: misc
I really thought this sounded like the kind of book that would be right up my street, but unfortunately I found it didn't meet my expectation and was, in all in all, a bit of a disappointment.

It's the story of a country house, built in the Palladian style, and the people who live in it. To be honest, I found it rather dreary and depressing and the house never really seems properly loved and seen in all its glory. Each chapter is a separate short story or vignette, often trying to link characters
Mar 06, 2013 K rated it really liked it
Ashenden: A Novel by Elizabeth Wilhide

When Downton Abbey finished its third season I needed that “English Manor” fix and I found Ashenden, a new book by Elizabeth Wilhide. This is her first novel though she is the author of more than twenty books on interior design and architecture. And her love of those subjects shines in this book where the main character is an old manor. Yes, a manor home is the main character. So while Downton Abbey might focus on the “upstairs / downstairs” human life Ashen
Colleen Turner
Really 4.5. I reviewed this book for

After their elderly aunt dies and leaves them her large country estate of Ashenden, Charlie and his sister, Ros, move into the home to determine whether they should keep it or sell it. The estate is in quite a state of disrepair and neither Charlie, a photographer living in New York, or Ros, a doctor living outside of Reading, can afford to keep it.

Weaved into the center of Charlie and Ros’ story line is the house’s history and that of i
Nicole Bonia
Dec 08, 2012 Nicole Bonia rated it liked it
Ashenden is a charming historical read that concerns itself with the generations of owners and servants living in a manor house built in the English countryside in 1775. Beginning in the present when siblings Charlie and Ros inherit Ashenden upon the death of their great aunt, it meanders back to when its foundations were first carefully chosen and laid. Charlie and his sister must decide whether to sell it, or keep it for future generations of their family to enjoy. Charlie is happily married ...more
The Book Maven
Many of us have always dreamed of inheriting a grand old house…but in today’s Britain, that dream might just be more of a nightmare, as Charlie and his sister Ros find out when their aunt dies and bequeaths to them the 250-year-old house called Ashenden. In addition to the house, they have inherited the obligations that come with it—the upkeep and the essential renovations and restorations.

As Charlie and Ros argue and struggle to think of a solution (sell and give up the history; keep and beggar
Jan 18, 2015 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ashenden is a fascinating story about a grand old house and its occupants. In the opening chapter Charlie and Ros find out they have inherited an English country house which is in desperate need of repairs. Charlie wants to sell while Ros wants to keep and fix up. This book reads like a series of interconnecting short stories beginning in 1775 with the construction of the house and ending in 2010 with Charlie and Ros making a decision as to the fate of this beautiful mansion. Each chapter is a ...more
Ashenden by Elizabeth Wilhide is essentially a collection of short stories, spanning 1775 to modern day, loosely gathered into a single story line thread by a stately country manor house in England--Ashenden. We are introduced to the house when Charlie, a middle aged transplant to America, is told that his Aunt Reggie has died...and willed the ancient, dilapidated country estate to his sister Ros and him. Flying over, he finds the house is in worse shape then he had feared, and that attemptin ...more
Jul 25, 2013 Lara rated it liked it
I really loved the premise of this book. Going through the history of the house was fascinating and I especially loved the paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter telling the house's "feelings" (as I put it). I wasn't entirely sold on the modern story, though. I couldn't quite come to like either of the modern characters and I was rather sad that neither of them fought harder for the house. It seemed to me that the modern story was a little disconnected from the earlier history of the house. ...more
Jan 24, 2015 Dianna rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
A history of Ashenden, an 18th century English country house, from conception in the late 1700's to present day, 2010. This elaborate home passes from one owner to another, steeped in history. I appreciated the ties to historical events, and it was interesting to read about how the house itself evolved and changed from owner to owner and era to era. But as much as I tried to love it, the stories within the story were at times unfinished, lacking in details, confusing. Since the main character is ...more
Feb 28, 2013 Patt rated it really liked it
Ashenden is an unusual book since the main character is a house. The author traces the history of this English country house from its construction in 1775 all the way to the present. Along the way we meet the inhabitants, both upstairs and downstairs. As a fan of the tv series, Downton Abbey and in the past, Upstairs Downstairs, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the descriptions of the house itself and the small vignettes of the residents and the workers whose lives were touched by it. Built, ...more
Claire Fuller
Feb 25, 2016 Claire Fuller rated it really liked it
Loved this book. It works best as a collection of short stories linked by a house (and sometimes characters turning up again), rather than a novel, but that made it all the better for me. It was the early ones in the house's history that I enjoyed the most: the tragedy of the architect, Georgiana More's disgrace, and Dulcie, who finally learns to be happy. The history didn't weigh these pieces down - they were about people living out their lives at a certain time. The two book-ends and the story ...more
Diana (Bever) Barber
Mar 14, 2013 Diana (Bever) Barber rated it did not like it
I started this, but I could not bring myself to finish it. 1. The language was appalling (swearing and private moments that should never have been made public). 2. The prose dragged on. I started reading it because I was interested in "another good English historical fiction book." Unfortunately, I was disgusted with it before I ran across anything remotely "English historical fiction."

If you can muscle your way past the gag reflex on this one, by all means...
Apr 17, 2014 Sharen rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this novel. The author manages to capture the voices of each era beautifully. She weaves the stories of the various families tied to the house with a deft touch. The result is fascinating. Elizabeth Wilhide's extensive knowledge of landscape and architectural details add authenticity to the novel, however she also possesses an intelligent and witty style, which lightens the tone where need be. Delightful!
Mar 03, 2013 Naomi rated it it was ok
The only thing that I can say about this book was that it was a series of short stories with a house as the central character. I am still baffled by the Downton Abbey reference unless it was done to "market" the book to garner more sales because, in my humble opinion, there was nothing DA about this book!
Lee Ann
Jan 29, 2013 Lee Ann rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it right off then had a couple of chapters with too many architectural details. Once I got past that I loved the book.
Feb 19, 2013 Terry rated it really liked it
Shelves: from-library
An interesting tale of the life of a wonderful house. The book is a collection of interconnected stories with the house itself as the main character. An enjoyable read.
Blodeuedd Finland
It was boring, and I got annoyed at the descriptions
Colleen Semanek
May 18, 2016 Colleen Semanek rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was a neat concept of the story of the house and its inhabitants.
Apr 06, 2016 Imation rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Me sobran el primer y el último capítulo.
Elizabeth (Miss Eliza)
*Special Content only on my blog, Strange and Random Happenstance during Downton Denial (February 2015)

Time and neglect have been brought to bear on Ashenden Park. Occasionally loved and cared for, the great estate has fallen into the hands of two siblings after the death of their aunt. They don't know what they should do with this giant white elephant they have inherited. Going back through time to the houses beginning in 1775, James Woods is finishing the architectural touches for his new mast
Oct 02, 2016 Phair rated it liked it
3.5* A decidedly different kind of book and I liked it a lot. Copied down several quotes that I wanted to remember. I do wish I had made notes about the various people who were part of the house's history as there were so many connections from period to period. One of the things I liked most was the way each chapter began with a paragraph that almost felt like it was from the house's point of view, or maybe from the pov of "history". Those sections have such an otherworldly feel, almost a ...more
Oct 23, 2012 Brenda rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Although I found the 2010 frames of Elizabeth Wilhide’s Ashenden to be less dynamic than what falls between—and I would concur with reviewers who found the interruption of its many historical vignettes to be mildly exasperating, I was pleased by the overall effect of moving through the text as I might through rooms in an elaborate, old,country manor.

I was especially engaged by the plight of the housekeeper who is charged with solving household crises while her mistress carries on liaisons with
May 17, 2013 WJ rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Opening line: Winter has been hard on the house, the bitter cold eating into the honey-colored stonework, causing portions of the facade to crumble and flake way.

Wilhide seems to be new to the fiction game. According to the author's biography at the end of the book, she has an impressive resume in the field of interior design and architecture. And this experience definitely shows in her descriptions regarding Ashenden Park: the house is painted beautifully for us and it is very easy to picture t
Sep 11, 2012 Jenny rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-challenge
Ashenden has been marketed "for fans of Downton Abbey," and I have to agree. The house itself is not particularly fascinating, but as a setting for stories linked through time, it is perfect. From its beginnings in 1775 up through 2010, the house evolves: there are phases of building, stalling, decay, repair, and rebuilding; times of good fortune for its occupants and times of strain; the house is an albatross or a treasure, depending on the point of view of its inhabitants.

The inhabitants, of
Ashley Arthur
Mar 29, 2013 Ashley Arthur rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway listed by Simon & Schuster.

The frame story of this book is about a pair of siblings who have inherited an old British country house called Ashenden Park. Whilde tells the story of Ashenden’s construction (which took decades to complete) and its history as it falls into different hands and Britain sees some major changes. Each chapter is separated by at least a decade in the house’s history, and each functions as its own short story. To begi
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Elizabeth Wilhide is the author of many books on design and interiors and two novels. Born in the United States, she now resides in London.
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