It is the 17th century and a wall is being built around a great house. Wychwood is an enclosed world, its ornamental lakes and majestic avenues planned by Mr Norris, landscape-maker. A world where everyone has something to hide after decades of civil war, where dissidents shelter in the forest, lovers linger in secret gardens, and migrants, fleeing the plague, are turned away from the gate.
Three centuries later, another wall goes up overnight, dividing Berlin, while at Wychwood, over one hot, languorous weekend, erotic entanglements are shadowed by news of historic change. A little girl, Nell, observes all.
Nell grows up and Wychwood is invaded. There is a pop festival by the lake, a TV crew in the dining room and a Great Storm brewing. As the Berlin wall comes down, a fatwa signals a different ideological faultline and a refugee seeks safety in Wychwood.
From the multi-award-winning author of The Pike comes a breathtakingly ambitious, beautiful and timely novel about game keepers and witches, agitators and aristocrats, about young love and the pathos of aging, and about how those who wall others out risk finding themselves walled in.
Reviews of Peculiar Ground
‘A rich layering of history and fiction … Erudite, elegant but easy-going … One of the best novels of the year so far’ The Times
‘Extraordinarily accomplished … absolutely involving, thanks to beautiful description and a very fine understanding of human emotion … Tolstoyan in its sly wit and descriptive brilliance … Humane, thoughtful, compelling and packed with magic, this is a remarkable achievement’ Guardian
‘So clever and beautifully written, it gripped me from start to end. I abandoned work and family to finish it’ Roddy Doyle
Unlike anything I’ve read. With its broad scope and its intimacy and exactness, it cuts through the apparatus of life to the vivid moment’ Tessa Hadley
‘Hughes-Hallett’s ambitious first novel dances between past and present, history and modernity … magically and movingly evoked, and remains in the imagination long after the reader passes beyond its gates’ New Statesman
‘Ambitious and accomplished … a polyphonic narrative … rich with detail … leaves you hoping that this late conversion to fiction will prove only the beginning’ Observer
‘A sensual meditation on the nature of paradise’ Mail on Sunday
‘A teeming, heaving whirligig of a novel… Hughes-Hallett retains terrific control of her subject matter in a novel beautifully alert to the repeating patterns of personal and political history’ Daily Mail
‘Happy, tragic, ever expanding and literally ground-breaking’ Spectator
‘Characters to get involved with, stories to follow – perfect to get lost in’ Woman & Home
‘That rare thing: a fresh classic. Ambitious, satisfying and mature, Peculiar Ground is spellbinding’ Country Life
‘Richly imagined, impressively detailed … admirably ambitious and well written … original and intriguing’ Sunday Times
‘Richly evocative’ Tatler
‘Elegant, inventive, mystical’ Daily Telegraph