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The Sacred Combe

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  84 ratings  ·  34 reviews
‘A man’s eye is accommodative, like his heart.’

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 compa
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 12th 2016 by Scribe UK
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3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  84 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Helene Jeppesen
Apr 22, 2017 rated it liked it
This story was certainly a puzzling one! It's the story of Sam Browne whose wife has suddenly and shockingly left him. But more than that, it's the story of what happens to Sam afterwards as he finds work at The Sacred Combe, a secured and secret place that contains a library of thousands of books.
The main story was puzzling, but intriguing, because of the actual job Sam is set to do (I don't want to give it away here). But while I was intrigued to read about this occupation of his and Sam's en
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a novel that spoke of many things that I love - in life and in literature.

It held: a country house; an intriguing family history; a lovely garden; and a great many books and literary allusions.

It was so thoughtfully and elegantly written that a reader might chose how they wanted to journey through the text: sailing through, enjoying the story and the scenery; wandering along, pausing to reflect on things that catch attention; progressing slowly, to be sure of missing absolutely nothing.
A young man explores the secrets of a manor house library in this measured debut novel. This is roughly contemporary (perhaps set in the early 2000s), but Samuel’s narration is highly old-fashioned, full of descriptive prose passages and detached, elevated language. The story could just as easily be taking place in the 1920s or 1950s. I loved the novel’s setup – who wouldn’t relish a chance to explore such a library? – but found the plot a little sleepy. Come expecting a deliciously bookish myst ...more
Jun 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
Oh dear. I read this book as a free serialisation from the Pigeonhole. It is Mr. Maloney's first novel but it reads like a first draft. He has some great ideas which never go anywhere e.g. a visit to a tree house and a trek up a mountain which seem to be just fillers. The story is set in the late twentieth century but the characters all speak as though they have walked out of a Dickensian novel. The narrator is clearly based on on the author. (Hint, no-one cares about your 2.1). He is clearly ve ...more
Eric Anderson
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There’s a special pleasure in finding something another reader has left in a used book. While reading you might come across a train ticket, a receipt or a passage in the text that’s been emphatically underlined. Suddenly you find yourself connected to an unknown reader from some period in the past. If you have a curious and imaginative mind you might wonder if the previous owner read this book while on a busy journey or alone in a study. Did she/he finish it? What did she/he think about it? It’s ...more
Anne Goodwin
May 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: debut-novelists
Like the stereotypical librarian, Sam is a quiet character, somewhat passive in his failure to fight for his former wife. He seems more interested in exploring the lives of others than living his own. Through him, we discover the loves and losses of the family that has occupied the hall for over two centuries. With Sam’s unworldliness and the Gothic style of the novel reminiscent of the Brontës, including addressing the reader directly, it’s easy to similarly get lost in the past and overlook th ...more
Liz Deakin
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a lovely descriptive novel which is evocative and thought provoking. The author has a real talent for describing a situation to which the reader can visualise and feel as though one is there. The story is a gentle tale of a man who has suffered a broken heart and is a bit lost in the world. After finding a mysterious advert in between the pages of a book he'd bought from a secondhand shop he finds himself at the Combe where he's subsequently drawn into a world full of colourful character ...more
Karina Ames
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful, meditative novel that invites the reader to pause and reflect on the life of both the admittedly passive main character and their own life. Most scenes contemplate the workings of nature, a fireplace or philosophical question, drawing the reader through a series of literal and figurative paths that lead them to speculate on how they will redirect their own life once they leave the combe. The novel invites a good glass of wine and comfortable armchair - settle in and forget a ...more
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this serialised on The Pigeonhole, and really enjoyed the experience. The book is beautifully written, but perhaps a little too literary for me. Still trying to work out what I make of the twist at the end. All in all a very enjoyable experience.
Jane Munro
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
An intriguing read that had me captivated from beginning to end. Written in beautifully descriptive prose which brings all the senses to life. For me, it contained a haunting sensation I couldn't quite put my finger on until the very last paragraph.
May 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every now and then you stumble on something wonderful that is just a joy to read and you enjoy every word- this is a book to treasure. Thank you Thomas Maloney. Recommended for reading next to the fire on a winter's afternoon.
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thomas Maloney’s first novel The Sacred Combe is not exactly what it seems. The protagonist Samuel Browne’s wife has left him. Afterwards, looking for in books, he finds a mysterious post-it note inside a copy of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. What follows is an invitation to the enigmatic Combe Hall, an introduction to a cast of eccentrics, and a missing letter. So far, all of the ingredients of a classic literary mystery but The Sacred Combe is not quite that. Instead, what follows is unusual and ...more
Leah Moyse
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Read via The Pigeonhole...

This is a story that leaves much to the imagination but nevertheless manages to provide a fully immersive narrative. I found it utterly absorbing and was mesmerised by the riveting and lyrical prose. For me this book is a celebration of the written word, it is a celebration of books, libraries and in many instances I found it to be a philosophical take on life and death and the stamp that we can make and should make on the world around us.

Sam Browne's life has taken a t
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Having read this on Pigeonhole I fervently consumed the early chapters. Enjoying the otherworldly nature of the Combe and its inhabitants; initially feeling as foreign as those of the mentioned Cold Comfort Farm and slowly with the exploration of the library they became warm accompaniments to the task at hand. I may have fallen victim to the slight ebb of the middle of the novel taking a few months to return and finish the book, but was glad my persistence was rewarded, as when the true nature o ...more
Jo Barton
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Samuel Browne is a singularly good man, but is set adrift when his marriage to the mysterious Sarah falls apart, and so, with his life and career in banking at a crossroads, he answers an enigmatic advertisement to act as a volunteer archivist in a private library. With nothing to lose, Samuel undertakes the journey to meet with Arnold Comberbache, and therein starts seventeen weeks of an adventure which will change Samuel's perception of life forever.

Deep in the British country side, in a wond
Chris Jefferson
Jun 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Thank you for this book. I thought that it began really well. I was intrigued by the characters and their relationships. I loved the descriptive passages so much that I could almost smell the library. But I was disappointed leading towards the end. The characters came together and then all moved on in different directions. It was as though they had little impact on each other. I wanted more to happen other than shelving books and walks in the countryside. There was mystery but but when revealed ...more
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
I received a copy of this book from Goodreads.
This was an intriguing read. The author makes much use of descriptive text. For a while, I found this challenging, but once I came to grips with it, the story became quite fascinating. Part mystery, part family tale, this book can be considered on a number of levels. An enjoyable read.
Mervyn Cartwright
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is magnificent for the prose. There is much beauty in each carefully crafted paragraph. The plot draws you into a world of mystery, exotic yet pedestrian. I read this with the pidgeonhole app which gives access to other readers notes in the margins, pieces of poetry, music etc.
Thoroughly recommended.
Aug 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
A slow book, written in the gothic style, full of flourishes and descriptions but not a lot of storyline - a book I did not particularly enjoy until I was two-thirds through - in fact, it helped me sleep well which is why I persevered. But suddenly I began to understand it more and my enjoyment grew.
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you're into books about books, then this is for you. As debut novels go, this is a startlingly assured effort from Thomas Maloney, who barely puts a foot wrong in this wonderfully rich evocation of life inside an ancient library. This novel is a paean to the careful work of a researcher; a restatement of faith in life as a slow, careful pursuit, not a clumsy rushed affair.
Sit back and enjoy.
Wendy Orr
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Lovely, rather unusual novel in that although set in relatively current times, the narrator and the pace feel as if they're from a much earlier period, without it feeling old fashioned. I listened to it in audio and intend to read it in print as well.
Jun 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this, it reminded me of The Secret History for some reason - not quite sure why. Beautiful prose, and really wanted to be at the Combe after a while!
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it, but am not too sure what to make of this 21st century romantic Gothic quest tale. It had all the ingredients - a crumbling manor in Yorkshire, a lost soul protagonist, a lost letter in a huge ancestral library, an orphaned protégée and echoes of a romantic past of poets and lives cut short - a bit of Dickens, Wilkie Collins, seasoned with a touch of Bronte. It was compelling and well written but the plot lacked tension and the storyline was a bit all over the place. If I could have ...more
Nigel Greaves
May 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Strange book this. I read it to the end and was constantly waiting for something to happen, but nothing did. Could not really work out what the book was supposed to be about, but that was probably just me!
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very easy to read, enjoyable book. Probably the best book I have read so far this year.
Tracey White
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book! A book about books and nature with human interest thrown in, totally enjoyable.
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is one of those intriguing books which may be read in several ways, depending on what the reader makes, or wants to make, of it. The author has written a fine book, one which will taken on a different meaning for each individual reader and, as such, would be a great book club choice!

I particularly like the symbolism used by the author, including the suggested musical interludes, and I know that I shall have to re-read it soon, in order to tie the threads of the narrative together to suit my
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaway
I received this book for free through a Goodreads giveaway. While beautifully written, I felt that this book lacked substance. It is filled with eccentric characters, wonderful language and a picturesque setting, but it left me cold. The author has a technical mastery of writing, and it obviously learned ( references to classical literature and music abound) but the story doesn't have much to say about the human condition, bereavement especially. It has put me in the mood to read more A.S Byatt ...more
Melanie Knight
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this via The Pigeonhole and enjoyed the interactive nature of the app, being able to see other readers' comments.I loved the setting of the story, in an old country house with an amazing library. There were some wonderful descriptions of the house, gardens and countryside. At times, I found the story a little slow, with not much happening, although those parts had a comfortable, cosy feel. At other times, it felt as if there were too many elements to the story, with characters appearing a ...more
Brian Edgar
Nov 02, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a very readable book although I have to admit to listening to the audio book as I worked.
It is about a young man who accepts a job looking for a lost letter in a private library. I the process he learns about some literary hoax which involved the ancestors of the library owner. I did not get the relevance of this or the references to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
I don't think I would recommend this book although others have enjoyed it.
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Thomas Maloney was born in Kent in 1979, grew up in London, and studied Physics at Oxford. His first novel, The Sacred Combe, was published in 2016. He lives in Oxfordshire with his family.