On the anniversary of her beloved father’s death, Ellie Jacobs takes a walk in the woods and comes across Dan’s harp barn and is enchanted by his collection. Dan gives her a harp made of cherrywood to match her cherry socks. He stores it for her, ready for whenever she’d like to take lessons, while Ellie keeps the musical secret from her controlling husband.
... 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.