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August book club Q & A: Ashenden by Elizabeth Wilhide

(24 Posts)
CeliaGransnet (GNHQ) Fri 17-Aug-12 10:50:36

Hopefully you'll be whizzing through Ashenden, the story of an English country house over the centuries, told through the turbulent lives and loves of the characters who inhabit its walls. It's been called the perfect read for Downton fans: what do you think? Elizabeth will be answering your questions in mid-September.

Annobel Fri 17-Aug-12 11:50:36

Oh dear! I ordered Ashenden from Amazon Marketplace for 1p plus postage, and managed, accidentally, to order Ashended by Somerset Maugham. It looks rather interesting so I will read it eventually!

CeliaGransnet (GNHQ) Fri 17-Aug-12 12:22:19

O no! An easy mistake to make, and both great reads! Do hope you'll have time to read this Ashenden too Annobel.

BoomerBabe Fri 17-Aug-12 16:48:48

I don't like Downton all that much, but I loved this book and have done little else but read it for the last two days. It moved and amused me in equal measures and I loved the little commentaries about the house at the start of each chapter which made it seem a living character in it's own right. Finished it now. Phew! Back to reality. What intrigued me was the contrast with the last club offering, State of Wonder. Ann Patchett said she had made everything up out of her imaginings, but Ashenden is based on quite a lot of real people and stories. I wonder which is easier to write?

NannyBarbara Mon 27-Aug-12 17:34:14

Thank you Gransnet for drawing my attention to this book - it's right up my street, just the kind of (historical) novel I love and I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy! As a keen member of National Trust, I love looking at and learning the history of our precious stately homes so I knew straight away that I would enjoy it. I started reading it a couple of days ago and find it hard to put down as I can't wait to read what happens next.

Babs21 Thu 06-Sep-12 17:28:48

Really enjoyed it, quite a different take on things.

bakergran Thu 13-Sep-12 14:18:52

My friend read this at the same time as me and commented that, at times, it felt more like a short story collection than a novel. I can see what she means - is that something you considered doing when writing the book?

annemac101 Thu 13-Sep-12 16:15:52

Why did you take so long to write your first novel? Have you always written and been trying to be published. I've only found a love of writing in my fifties which is why I'm asking.

Rowena Fri 14-Sep-12 12:09:32

There is so much fine detail about the house, Ashenden, and the lives of the characters who lived there, in this novel, that keeps the reader interested until the end. I would like to know what inspired the author and how the research was managed. For example, were several stately homes personally viewed before writing began and how were the characters devised? If stately houses were viewed did Ms Wilhide imagine who had walked before in those spaces or did she research public archives for descriptions of people from Census returns over the centuries?

proudnana Mon 17-Sep-12 12:34:26

Lots of people have been comparing your book to Downton Abbey - do you watch the show (new series started last night!) and how do you think it compares to your book?

praxis Mon 17-Sep-12 12:37:45

The ending really surprised me - did you agonise about it? There's a feeling that you didn't want the house to end up in the wrong hands. Did you try several endings?

jessieg Mon 17-Sep-12 12:40:41

What I thought made it feel like Downton was the stories of the servants just as much as the rich people. Did you find it harder to research the lives of servants?

damealice Mon 17-Sep-12 12:59:30

What made you decide to expand some stories more than others - did you get more involved with some characters, like the American woman Reggie? Her death is very moving. Is she based on anyone you've known or met? Are any of the characters based on real life?

Grannyruth Mon 17-Sep-12 13:05:37

Why did you call the book Ashenden? Were you worried about possible confusion with the Somerset Maugham spy novels which were on the telly not long ago...?

sofasogood Mon 17-Sep-12 16:49:02

I liked all the stories in the book, but I liked some more than others. (I think The Janus Cup was my favourite). Do you have favourites yourself?

typo Mon 17-Sep-12 16:50:45

Were you worried about making all the stories hang together? Or did having lots of separate stories seem an easier writing task?

fredoir Mon 17-Sep-12 16:51:54

Is it very different, writing fiction and non-fiction? Which presents the greater challenge for you?

appletree Mon 17-Sep-12 16:53:22

Did you find it easy to get published? What was the process? presumably you already had an agent?

crisisgran Mon 17-Sep-12 16:57:12

Do you write every day?

tinglytoes Mon 17-Sep-12 17:05:47

I loved the way the chapters were threaded together, even though they were separate stories. Was that difficult to do? Did you have to plan it all out beforehand?

firenze Mon 17-Sep-12 17:11:21

It sometimes seems that more novels are set in English country houses than not. What do you think is the enduring appeal of country houses in fiction?

stopgap Mon 17-Sep-12 17:14:53

Who is your favourite character in the novel?

And what have been your favourite books recently?

lolling Mon 17-Sep-12 17:18:05

I was interested in the way a lot of the owners of the house weren't "posh" even though the house itself clearly is. Does that reflect reality - were a lot of English country houses like that, changing hands and being bought by the new rich of the time?

scribblegranny Mon 17-Sep-12 17:21:04

Are you writing another novel? Did you want to write something completely different when you finished, or are you the sort of author who is happy to write another similar book if people liked your previous one?