Hazel Prior| 2019| 327 pages| Fiction
Ellie Jacobs is feeling unsettled. She takes long walks in the countryside and writes poetry. She misses her father, who died a year ago. On the anniversary of her father’s death she discovers a barn filled with dozens of beautiful handmade Celtic harps. And she meets Dan Hollis, a handsome man with dark eyes, who introduces himself as the “Exmoor Harpmaker.” Ellie says that she is the “Exmoor Housewife.” And a friendship begins. Dan is an extraordinary craftsman and an unusual person. Sometimes when he gets excited he flaps his hands and makes strange noises. He counts things, including the number of steps up to the practice room and how many toadstools he sees on a walk. He knows that he sometimes doesn’t say or do the right things with people. He also loves the countryside. Each harp he makes is unique and has an Exmoor pebble in its woodwork. He gives Ellie a harp when they meet and says that it will always be her harp. But Ellie’s husband, Clive, demands that she return the harp. Clive can be wonderful, but he can also be controlling and horrible. Ellie decides to take harp lessons with “Roe Deer,” Dan’s girlfriend. And she doesn’t tell Clive about the lessons. Then Ellie discovers a secret that Roe Deer is keeping from Dan. And the discovery of this secret sets in motion a dreadful chain of events. This novel stresses the importance of music, friendships, and that you can find love in surprising places. There are remarkable characters and even a pet pheasant, who has quite a personality! Dan is an honest man, open about his feelings, and Ellie is an anxious but delightful person. She is drawn to Dan and to the harps that he creates. At the Harp Barn she has found “a warmer place, with music, heart and breathing space.” Maybe this is what she has been searching for? The author, Hazel Prior, is a harpist who is based in Exmoor and this is her first novel. You should give this charming and quirky novel a try!
Robbin Bailey, Reference Librarian