... melodious, dreamy ... an innocent, old-fashioned love story that could have been plucked from a simpler time ... uplifting escapism. What could be a tired plot is instead fresh and sweet, rejuvenated by a set of unusual characters, the raw beauty of England and the musicality of Prior’s prose. Of course, there’s a certain suspension of belief required: Dan’s secluded Harp Barn is almost too fairy tale-like, his peculiarities bordering on the extreme ... Still, Prior’s lyricism feels like a warm song. This is a story that will make you want to take a walk through the woods and collect pebbles from a stream, then go home to dine on plum-jam sandwiches. And maybe, like the old harpist’s mandate, shed a tear and laugh a little.
With the character-driven charm of Lianne Moriarty’s and Sara Baume’s novels, and a pastoral English setting befitting Lucinda Riley and Judith Kinghorn, Prior’s debut probes the inner workings of two very different minds. Empathetic to its core, it’s a delightfully heart-warming glimpse inside a lushly imagined world. Tender, free-spirited, and guaranteed to tug at readers’ heartstrings.
... lyrically written, delightfully charming ... By telling the story from two intimate points of view, debut novelist Hazel Prior allows readers simultaneously to discover startling truths right along with her well-drawn characters. This approach heightens the narrative tension and allows this beautiful, tender story about the harmonious meaning of true friendship and love to reverberate with many unexpected surprises.
Prior’s debut resonates with a clear voice, depicting love evolving from a friendship based upon genuine acts of kindness ... Ellie and Dan, both delightful, down-to-earth characters, selflessly put each other’s needs ahead of their own, and fans of fast-paced romantic stories will enjoy watching them discover true happiness together.
The author, a harpist herself, writes vividly about harp making as well as the natural world in which Dan thrives. And though the end of this fairy tale–like story is never in much doubt, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged. Yet too much of the plot is, well, preposterous—particularly where Dan is concerned. He’s supposed to be a stubborn yet pure-hearted naif but just seems socially inept and clueless. Dan registers shock upon learning Rhoda no longer considers herself his girlfriend—though they haven’t been intimate for years and rarely see one another. Similarly, Dan remains blithely oblivious to Clive’s wrath when the latter shows up with Ellie at the barn after finding out what’s been going on behind his back ... There are moments of oddball charm here—a pheasant named Phineas figures in several of them—but this is a trifle that tries too hard to warm the heart.