Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Thornyhold” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.82  ·  Rating details ·  6,116 ratings  ·  615 reviews
The story is about a lonely child who is made to see the world through her cousin's unusual eyes. When the child becomes a young woman, she inherits her dead cousin's house, as well as her reputation among the local community as a witch. However, as she finds out, this is no normal community, and worries quickly present themselves.

Alternate cover edition for this ISBN 9780
Mass Market Paperback, 207 pages
Published 1990 by General Publishing Company (first published 1988)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Thornyhold, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Shane Sawyer Gilly's cousin Geillis kept it hidden up the chimney. William told her where it was when he brought his sick ferret.…moreGilly's cousin Geillis kept it hidden up the chimney. William told her where it was when he brought his sick ferret.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,116 ratings  ·  615 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Thornyhold
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Next up group read with the Mary Stewart group, October 2019.

This is maybe 3.75 stars for me, but if I'm judging it just as a comfort read, that and my general love for all things Mary Stewart push it to a solid 4 stars. Mary Stewart (perhaps inspired by her Merlin books that she'd been writing) wrote this sweet romance with a dash of magical realism, as our heroine dabbles in white magic of the hedgewitch variety, like crystal balls and potions. Thornyhold is also a charming ode to the English
Those readers who love the vivid, lyrical prose of Stewart's novels shouldn't be disappointed in this offering, although be warned, it does differ from her earlier works.

Thornyhold is a more subtle and contemplative story then you might be used to when it comes to reading Stewart. After all, she was in her 70's when she wrote this, and I imagine she was harkening back to her youth while penning Thornyhold. Generally absent is the suspense and romance so magically woven throughout in The Moonspi
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pleasure-reading
Would it seem a little too precious if I said this book is bewitching? Seriously, it is. Thornyhold itself is so charming and alluring, with hidden staircases in cupboard doors and walled gardens in varying states of disarray.

It had a mediaeval look, like the jewelled, out-of-perspective illuminations in a tale like The Romance of the Rose. Within the irregular circle of ancient walls and vegetable plot someone, a long time ago, had made a garden within a garden. At its center stood a well, anc
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
Ha! I'm sick at the moment and accidentally deleted this review! Fortunately I had already posted the review on my blog.

So here it is again, folks. :)


Well…it was better than Stormy Petrel, but still fell short of the mark for me.

The beginning, although sad and depressing was well written. I felt for the lonely child that Jilly was and loved the relationship with her “fairy godmother”, Geillis.

And as always, Lady Stewart creates a wonderful sense of place, vividly described people. I’m intere
4.5 stars
A lovely reread of an old favorite....a lonely, unloved child with a godmother known as a healer and white witch inherits Thornyhold when the old woman passes away. A gentle, quiet tale of a young woman's transformation as the magic of her country sanctuary and her love of all creatures great and small lead her to find happiness and love. Pure poetry.
Halloween Bingo 2021

This is one of those two-birds-with-one-stone books. It's my September birthday book, Ms. Stewart being born in this fair month, and it also fits one of my Halloween Bingo categories, as it has both Hodge, the witch's cat, and Rags, the border collie rescued from a nasty witchy fate. I love Stewart's books and I read this one several times in the 1980s. Then I had to move several times and let it go, along with a number of other titles that I wish I'd hung onto. This year
This is simple perfection in descriptive poetic writing. Not earth shattering or life-changing, just a magical ride to another time and place chock full of imagery and tactile experience. If you enjoy exploration of nature and and discovery of nooks and crannies in historical old estates, quirky mysterious characters, with a little witchery thrown in, this is for you. The characters are colorfully drawn and feel real all the way down to the animals and birds. There are many quaint phrases that I ...more
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!

The setting of Thornyhold is post WWII England. Young Geillis, known as Jilly has had a quietly miserable vicarage childhood raised by a stern mother and a gentle Vicar father. Her sad childhood is occasionally relieved by visits from her mother's Cousin Geillis, a world traveler, herbalist, and Jilly's sponsor/godmother. Jilly is gentle, intelligent and lonely, and the infrequent visits from Cousin Geillis have a magical quality for the lonely child. Cousin Geillis pays her sc
Sarah Mac
I'm not sure what to make of Mary Stewart's oeuvre.

The Ivy Tree was my first MS experience, & I loved it. Spurred by success, I quickly followed with Nine Coaches Waiting & My Brother Michael, both of which I liked. But then came Wildfire at Midnight, which was disappointing. And now...Thornyhold.

It's well-written from a technical standpoint; then again, I'd expect nothing less. Stewart always displays a strong command of language & description, while her narrators are prone to quotable insights
This has been a lovely read, but I feel it needs some fleshing out, the end felt rushed. I wouldn't have minded to spend another 100 pages at Thornyhold.

While thoroughly liking this book, I think I now understand Catherine Moreland's feelings in Northanger Abbey a bit better. You know, when she realised that instead of finding a dramatic and mysterious set of letters, she was actually holding a couple of washing and clothing bills in her hands.
But I was not self-delusional, it was the author her
I suppose at 208 pages Thornyhold qualifies as a novel, but in some ways it feels like a novella. Sparse and focused, yet somehow sufficient for the story it tells. It is an odd, beautiful little book. It borderlines the feeling you get when you read a classic novel because it contains many of the same elements and archetypes: the lonely, orphaned girl, the emotions that reveal the human experience, the fight between good and evil. I'm sure you could find any number of Themes or Literary Tropes ...more
Three and a half stars. I think this is one book that should have been about a hundred pages longer. It got off to a very promising start but then sort of petered out into nothing much. I really enjoyed the story of Gilly Ramsey’s lonely childhood and the bright moments of connection with her godmother. When Gilly inherits Thorneyhold I was delighted with both the house and all the mysterious goings on: flashes of intuition, cats, dogs, pigeons appearing, locked rooms and herb lore. And then…the ...more
Emma Doughty
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This has been one of my favourite books for years, and I have recently re-read it. What I love about it is that it makes magic commonplace, seeing it everywhere in nature. The story is about Geillis (Gilly) Ramsey, who after the death of her parents finds a haven when she inherits a house in the country from her godmother (also called Geillis).

As she brings the house and garden back into good order, Gilly discovers that her godmother was known locally as a witch - and she wasn't the only one. An
Susan Albert
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've loved Mary Stewart's romantic mysteries for decades, and I go back to them often. I picked up a digital copy of THORNYHOLD recently. I enjoy Stewart's characterizations but most of all, her descriptions of Thornyhold and its gardens. And of course, there's a stillroom. Any book that includes an herbalist, a stillroom, and a bit of witchery wins my heart. ...more
Jan 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of A Wrinkle in Time
Shelves: fantasy
Gilly has a lonely childhood in the north of England between the two WWs, and foresees a long, lonely adulthood for herself. But then her father dies, and her godmother Geillis leaves her a house and garden in Thornyhold. Geillis always had an air of mystery and magic about her, and so does her house. Gilly begins exploring her godmother's herbologies and the woods around the cottage, but interruptions by her various neighbors leave her both unsettled and intrigued. Led by occasional messenger p ...more
Aug 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Well, it's not really fantasy, more of a light little romance. Gilly is a lonely young woman whose strict, religious parents tried their best to keep her from her aunt who was rumored to be a witch. Now that Gilly is grown she's inherited the aunt's cottage . . . and her book of "recipes." Enter a serious widower with a charming son, a rival "witch" and some very daft sheep, and you have a charming book! ...more
Sep 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved ‘Thornyhold’ every bit as much as I had expected. And maybe even a little more.

Geillis was a lonely child, the only daughter of undemonstrative parents, but her godmother, a herbalist and maybe a white witch, understood and showed her the magic in the world that she had always wanted to see:

“Everything, suddenly, seemed outlined in light. The dog-daisies, white and gold, and taller than I was, stirred and swayed above my head as if combed through by a strong breeze. In its wake the air s
love the house, a bit like Shell Seekers, a bit like Outlander, but short

Mom loved it, too.


Notes like that are charming little surprises now. Mom was dyslexic (probably) and reading was very slow. Understandably, she was delighted when books on tape then disc became widespread.

She also read stories by Mary Stewart in the Good Housekeeping magazines of my childhood. Because reading was slow and she was a working woman, which means "with practically no freetime," she had a large, tidy collectio
Mary Durrant
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lovely gentle story full of magic and romance.
Wonderful descriptions of the countryside.
Geillis inherited Thornyhold from her godmother , which is nestled in a wood.
A magical place with a resident black cat.
Strange neighbours and a secret recipe.
I loved it, beautifull descriptively written with suspense.
If you are looking for escapism this just does the trick.
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mary-stewart, gothic
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 03, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romance, fantasy
Compared to Stewart’s other romance/mystery stories, this is rather gentle. It’s more about family being there for you, about everyday magic, about finding yourself at last and fitting yourself into the world. The protagonist, Gilly, really hasn’t had a chance to grow up, or at least to grow out of her parents’ expectations, and here she finds space to do exactly that, thanks to the cottage left for her by her godmother.

It honestly sounds at some point like there’s something more sinister going
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love this book so much! I am reading it for the third time, or I should say that I'm listening to the audio version read by Jane Asher (the one who dated Paul McCartney donkey years ago). I find it very soothing to lie in bed and have someone with a British accent read me to sleep. The magical element of the book appeals to me, as does the descriptive details about the settings. All those wonderful heirloom flowers growing amid the overgrown cottage garden, etc. After listening to the YouTube ...more
I'd read this before but had forgotten how lovely it is. The story is simple but one that tells of finding one's place, of healing the empty places, of coming home. I always enjoy Stewart's writing but in this book the atmosphere, the story, and especially the house are a pure delight for me. A true comfort read. I'm adding this one to my favorites shelf.

I want to live in Thornyhold! Even if it's only in my imagination.

Note: Each chapter heading in my 1988 hardback edition has charming illustra
Bookishnymph *needs hea*
I great story about the English country-side, herbs, witches, and love.
Lydia Gastrell
May 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Firstly, let me be blunt by saying I’m disappointed and regret the waste of time I spent reading this book. It is filled with false foreshadowing, chapters and scenes that end with unrealized suspense, and a final turn in the story that makes the first 80% of it meaningless.

You get a hard smack in the face on just how misleading this story has been in Chapter 22, which opens with the line “Since this not a tale of midnight witchcraft, but a simple–relatively simple–love story, it is fit
Elinor  Loredan
Thornyhold, one of my favorites, gives me a gentle, dreamy feel right away, like I'm looking out over a sunny stretch of countryside. When I surface from the narrative, I feel like I'm in a storybook myself, and everything around me is worth noticing, has significance. It's a very satisfying feeling. There's an interesting paradox as well--there's no sense of urgency in the mild events of the story, they just go along sedately, but I feel a sense of urgency to keep reading it.

Stewart does a goo
Lynn Spencer
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gothic
I enjoyed this book, but it's a bit different than Mary Stewart's older gothics. Set in the postwar years, this follows the adventures of Gilly Ramsey as she emerges from an isolated, lonely childhood after inheriting her beloved aunt's home at Thornyhold. When she arrives at her new home, Gilly discovers a mysterious (and handsome!) neighbor as well as signs that not all is as it seems.

The gothic feel of this story felt familiar to me after reading some of Stewart's earlier works. However, in t
Dec 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: romance, fantasy
Thornyhold is a sweet little romance with just a hint of mystery and the fantastical. Nothing alarming about it -- no dead bodies buried in the back garden -- just what I suppose some people would call a "clean" romance. It was perfect for a break from my coursework. It's nothing wildly exciting: it feels soft and nostalgic round the edges. The characters aren't exactly vivid and bright: I doubt I'll remember them in a month or two. But they were comfortable, and I was glad of the happy ending f ...more
Amalia Gkavea
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
This was between two and three stars, actually. I enjoyed the beautiful prose, full of the serene beauty of the English countryside. What bothered me was the dialogue (full of cliché interactions, almost stilted) and the improbability of the plot. Too many coincidences, too much melodrama. It was not my cup of tea, but one should read it just for the beauty of the descriptions of the landscape.
Sara Giacalone
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
A bit more mellow than the others, in terms of suspense and mystery, but still quite fun and entertaining. Loved the description of Thornyhold and its gardens.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Madam, want to ta...: Thornyhold -- Spoilerland 123 71 Sep 27, 2019 10:35AM  
Madam, want to ta...: Thornyhold -- Actively Reading 118 63 Sep 24, 2019 02:38PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Amberwell (Ayrton Family #1)
  • Mrs. Lorimer's Quiet Summer
  • Winter in Thrush Green (Thrush Green, #2)
  • The House on the Cliff
  • Sarah Morris Remembers
  • The Tall Stranger
  • Miss Plum and Miss Penny
  • Apricot Sky
  • The Quicksilver Pool
  • A House in the Country
  • Death in Cyprus
  • Mistress of Mellyn
  • Feather on the Moon
  • Celia's House
  • Vittoria Cottage (Dering Family, #1)
  • Rainsong
  • China Court: The Hours of a Country House
  • Anna and Her Daughters
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Lady Mary Stewart, born Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, was a popular English novelist, and taught at the school of John Norquay elementary for 30 to 35 years.

She was one of the most widely read fiction writers of our time. The author of twenty novels, a volume of poetry, an

Related Articles

We love a good mystery, and we are especially intrigued when a brand-new debut author appears in the genre! Who knows what thrills and...
57 likes · 4 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“You get no writing done at all if you sit at a table with a view. You'd spent the whole time watching the birds or thinking about what you would like to be doing out of doors, instead of flogging yourself to work out of sheer boredom.” 16 likes
“I suppose my mother could have been a witch if she had chosen to. But she met my father, who was a rather saintly clergyman, and he cancelled her out.” 15 likes
More quotes…