Books to Love: Age Stricken Houses

banner-books-to-love-old-houses-01 (3).jpg

A house, a house, my kingdom for a house... oh, wait, that was horse, wasn’t it? No bother, my sentiment applies. I have a thing for old houses, and adore books where said houses feature heavily.

Old homes hold secrets, it’s why they’re so wonderful as settings. And that’s what today’s post is all about: books set in old houses where the house plays as big a role as the characters who live in it.

Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley...

Would Daphne Du Mauriers’s Rebecca be the same without that haunted home? I think not. Mrs. Danvers would be half as frightening if she were in a new fangled duplex rather than Maximilian’s ancestral Cornish seat with all its secrets.

Of course who could forget the all important Pemberley. Her appearance might be brief, but her role is of the utmost importance. Recall the conversation between Elizabeth and her sister, Jane, when Lizzy tells her that she’s going to marry Darcy. Jane asks when Lizzy knew she loved him. Remember what Lizzy says?

It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.

The whole conclusion of Pride and Prejudice hinges on that rather magnificent house- if you can call such a rambling, magnificent estate seat a house…

And certainly, we cannot forget the Brontë sisters, who each supplied us with houses of repute: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall from Anne, Mr. Rochester’s Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre from Charlotte and Wuthering Heights from Emily. Frightful (or seemingly so) places one and all...

And one must mention that old house in Paris that’s covered in veins where 12 little girls live in two straight lines, the smallest being Madeline...

But here are few book recommendations of lesser repute- if you will- in which old houses feature prominently and pivotally where the plot is concerned.


A Forgotten Room by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, Karen White

I was afforded the chance to hear all three of these authors speak about the inspiration behind this book. It all started on a cold, snowy day in New York City, when these three ladies were plotting their novel over endless pots of tea. One thing led to another: Karen White and Lauren Willig found out that Beatriz William’s husband’s family had once owned a home in Manhattan that occupied an entire city block. Since they were all searching for the right venue to stage their novel and they were buoyed with copious amounts of tea, they decided to go to that house, knock on the door, and ask to explore it. As luck would have it, the house has been turned into a private hospital and the nurses were happy to oblige them, unaccompanied. Now, when three authors are left to wander the wards of a private hospital- one that did not desecrate the original architecture- there is ample food for the imagination. However, it was when they reached the top of the hospital and discovered a supply closet with the most exquisite window and lighting, their imaginations were fired. They knew they had their setting for the novel and they knew that someone in that novel would be an artist who utilized that room to paint the most important work of his life.

I read A Forgotten Room in a single day and I loved every word of it. As you know from last month’s giveaway, I have a weakness for novels that span generations, particularly ones where mysteries unfold over those generations and effect the lives of all people involved. This novel does just that. Furthermore, the love story between Harry and Olive is one of my all time favorite ones. Truly. It’s rapturous. Keep in mind, I am still not sure which author wrote which part, and as these ladies aren’t telling, we’ll probably never know. This is a fantastic read and I can’t recommend it enough. I’ll even give you a peek. Harry Pratt, wealthy son of the man responsible for Olive’s father’s death, is home from college for the holidays. Olive is working as a maid in the household with the intent to make the Pratts pay for her father’s death. Everything’s going according to plan for her until Harry says this:

Do you know what captivates me? This. You, like this. I don’t know what to call it. Your artlessness, your decency, it’s everything I’ve been dreaming of, the exact opposite of the world downstairs, the world I’ve been living in all my life. Every night this week I have lain in bed, thinking of you. How I want to paint you, to capture— no, that’s not the right word. To express this essence, this wonderful nobility here”— he drew his thumb along my cheek and jaw— “and here.” He touched her collarbone.

Cornwall is a weakness for me. As I referenced Rebecca before- a book whose setting in Cornwall is quintessential- I thought I would throw a few Cornish reads your way.


The Lake House by Kate Morton

Kate Morton’s The Lake House takes place in Cornwall. It also unfolds over the course of several generations and from numerous people’s perspectives. I must admit that I am not finished reading this book yet, though.

The story starts in the 1930s with Alice Edevane burying something on the property of her family’s estate adjacent to a lake in Cornwall. We don’t know what it is or why it’s significant, but it’s the prologue, so we know it’s important. Fast forward to the present. Sadie Sparrow is spending time with her grandfather in his home in Cornwall after a particularly arduous case. She works in London with the Metropolitan Police. While she’s out running by the lake, trying to clear her mind from all the regrets and frustrations she’s dealing with from the fallout of said case, she happens upon an abandoned home. Like I would, she peeks through the window and only becomes more curious when the rooms all seem to have been left suddenly. If it weren’t for the coating of thick dust on everything, Sadie would swear that someone was about to return to the piano and pick up their teacup. Needing a distraction, Sadie determines she’s going to find out what exactly happened 70+ years ago that was so terrible, the Edevane family would lock the doors to their lake house and never return.

Intrigued? That make two of us. I need to read through my research novels faster so I can get to this exciting read.


Bride of Pendorric by Victoria Holt

This is a Gothic novel set in the 1940s. It’s full of mystery and suspense. In many ways, it reminds me of Rebecca. And it starts on an one of the Greek isles. Greek Isles. Cornwall. Need more be said? Starting with a whirlwind romance on the beach of a Greek isle (I can’t remember which one), proceeds to the groom’s ancestral seat, Pendorric- you guessed it- on the coast of Cornwall and unfolds with so many mysteries that the bride begins to wonder if the man she married is a murderer. And the answers are hidden in the haunted halls of Pendorric


On The Edge of the Wood by Diana Tyrell

Since I fell in love with Victoria Holt, I’m always on the lookout for modern Gothics that follow in her footsteps. Diana Tyrell’s On The Edge of the Wood is one such novel. In the Sierra Nevada mountains, architect Stacey Addison finds an old run down farm house which is rich with a mysterious history as well as potential for a beautiful home. The house is a character all it's own, abandoned, in disrepair, eager for love. She begins to split her time between her job at an architectural firm in Frisco and her time fixing up her house. However, strange things begin to occur. Her clients at work are receiving prank calls saying to dump her as a consultant on any of their projects. She is receiving strange, and slightly threatening letters in the mail. 

Abby has some ideas- by way of gossip and rumors- of who could be sending these messages and making these calls. She can't prove anything, the police can't help, and, at times, she's not even sure she wants to know if her suspicions are correct. Because they involve her handsome neighbor Brand. While it’s on the lighter side for a Gothic novel, I loved this book. Tyrell captured the essence of the Sierra Nevada mountains perfectly. It’s a fun read.

There are couple more I would recommend, but it’s getting a trifle long here. You can check out this post for another recommendation, though.

Are there any books you would recommend in which an old house takes the stage front and center?