Considered a troublesome burden, Evelyn Talbot is banished by her family to their remote country house. Tall Chimneys is hidden in a damp and gloomy hollow. It is outmoded and inconvenient but Evelyn is determined to save it from the fate of so many stately homes at the time - abandonment or demolition.
Occasional echoes of tumult in the wider world reach their sequestered backwater - the strident cries of political extremists, a furore of royal scandal, rumblings of the European war machine. But their isolated spot seems largely untouched. At times life is hard - little more than survival. At times it feels enchanted, almost outside of time itself. The woman and the house shore each other up - until love comes calling, threatening to pull them asunder.
Her desertion will spell its demise, but saving Tall Chimneys could mean sacrificing her hope for happiness, even sacrificing herself.
A century later, a distant relative crosses the globe to find the house of his ancestors. What he finds in the strange depression of the moor could change the course of his life forever.
One woman, one house, one hundred years.
My review -
Tall Chimneys is the name of a big country house in Yorkshire. Our tale is narrated by Evelyn, youngest child of the family, born in the early part of the 20th century. She loses both parents when young and is brought up by an older sister for the most part. She then returns to the family home and ends up effectively as housekeeper and caretaker. She’s reluctant to leave and go out into the world, partly because she has no skills other than those of looking after a crumbling mansion, and partly because her irregular relationship and illegitimate child cause her to feel ashamed to face the wider world.
This is a tour de force of a novel. It’s an epic which brings in a great deal of the history of the last century. The story arc sweeps from the first world war, though the second and into present times, meeting with many a historic figure on the way, the King and Mrs Simpson, Mosely, Diana Mitford and others. There are some hugely sympathetic figures, one particular monstrous character, and we see all of it through the eyes of one woman. Some of what she sees, she misinterprets, which enriches the story, for me. This was a gripping read which I heartily recommend.
About the author
Allie recalls: 'I was about 8 years old. Our teacher asked us to write about a family occasion and I launched into a detailed, harrowing and entirely fictional account of my grandfather's funeral. I think he died very soon after I was born; certainly I have no memory of him and definitely did not attend his funeral, but I got right into the details, making them up as I went along (I decided he had been a Vicar, which I spelled 'Vice'). My teacher obviously considered this outpouring very good bereavement therapy so she allowed me to continue with the story on several subsequent days, and I got out of maths and PE on a few occasions before I was rumbled.'
She went on to do a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.
She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.
She has two grown-up children, one granddaughter and two grandsons, is married to Tim and divides her time between Cheshire and Cumbria.
You can buy Tall Chimeys from here in the UK or here in the US.