I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour today for Tall Chimneys by Allie Cresswell, published on 12th December, and available for kindle and in paperback from Amazon in the UK and US. I so wish I could have read this one ahead of the tour, but it was sadly impossible – I’m really attracted by the Yorkshire setting, the heroine at its centre and the broad sweep of history it covers. If it appeals to you too, I noticed today that it’s currently FREE for kindle – but do move quickly!
Considered a troublesome burden, Evelyn Talbot is banished by her family to their remote country house. Tall Chimneys is hidden in a damp and gloomy hollow. It is outmoded and inconvenient but Evelyn is determined to save it from the fate of so many stately homes at the time – abandonment or demolition.
Occasional echoes of tumult in the wider world reach their sequestered backwater – the strident cries of political extremists, a furore of royal scandal, rumblings of the European war machine. But their isolated spot seems largely untouched. At times life is hard – little more than survival. At times it feels enchanted, almost outside of time itself. The woman and the house shore each other up – until love comes calling, threatening to pull them asunder.
Her desertion will spell its demise, but saving Tall Chimneys could mean sacrificing her hope for happiness, even sacrificing herself.
A century later, a distant relative crosses the globe to find the house of his ancestors. What he finds in the strange depression of the moor could change the course of his life forever.
One woman, one house, one hundred years.
I’m delighted to welcome author Allie Cresswell as my guest on Being Anne, reflecting on her Desert Island Books…
I am sure you are aware of the long running radio programme Desert Island Discs in which guests are asked to name the eight records they would choose to be marooned with on a desert island and explain why they are so special. Let’s play our own game of Desert Island Books. Here are the eight books I would grab as the ship went down.
It would be inconceivable to be without a Jane Austen novel. I think I would choose Mansfield Park because it is the longest and the one I am probably least familiar with. Fanny Price becomes the token poor relation at her wealthy relatives’ house, the eponymous Mansfield Park. She is marginalised from the outset and used as a go-fer by her horrid Aunt Norris. Only the kindness of her cousin Edmund ameliorates her misery. But while Fanny might be gawkish and frightened, she has a moral sense which is acute and reliable. As, one by one, her privileged cousins fall by the wayside, in the end it is only Fanny who remains standing as an example of goodness.
LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. This was a favourite book as a child. I don’t know how many times I read it but the copy I have still on my bookshelf is shabby and dog-eared. I felt such affinity with Anne, a girl with an imagination, a girl who got into scrapes, a girl with a feeling for others which made her immediately know which would be her ‘kindred spirits.’
I love Anthony Trollope’s imaginary county Barsetshire and the population of wonderful characters who inhabit it. The reader gets a powerful sense of a place carrying on about its business even after the cover is closed. That would be a comfort if I were stranded on an island – that somewhere, life was going on. In Barchester Towers a battle is played out as the horrendously domineering and interfering Mrs Proudie – and the sycophantic chaplain Obadiah Slope lock horns over the gently protesting but ineffectual Archbishop. The writing is rich in humour, the characters are drawn large with comedic quality and the dialogue is a whetted blade of brilliant parry and thrust.
Few writers have the ability to make me laugh out loud but Bill Bryson is one of them. I have frequently embarrassed myself on trains by bursting into hysterics while reading one of his travelogues. I think I would choose Notes from a Small Island as it would remind me of home.
Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is a rich and complex novel about loyalty, tragedy and friendship. Donna writes beautiful prose, each phrase honed to perfection. An unremarkable young man from an ordinary family embarks on a university course and decides to reinvent himself. He inveigles his way into a group of brilliant students who, under the influence of a charismatic professor, have taken their studies of Dionysus to a new, experiential level. A tragic accident occurs and the groups’ loyalties are put to the test. The intensity of the relationships, the dark nuance of character and the shadow that hangs over the accident are all brilliantly done. This is a book to savour. It is dark and leaves you with a worrying question. How far would you go to protect your friends?
I am not normally a reader of poetry but I think for this situation I would want a collection of Wordsworth’s poems to remind me of Cumbria, the place I now call home. How wonderful it would be, on that parched, sandy splodge in the ocean, to travel in my imagination to the fells and shining lakes of this beautiful county.
In about 1992 I started working for a printing company as their bookkeeper. I finished at 2, which allowed me, on the drive home, to catch a long-running radio serial called The Archers. I was soon hooked and still listen religiously today. As my seventh book I would like a copy of all The Archers scripts since the first episode in 1950, so that I can catch up with all the episodes I missed. I don’t know if such a thing exists (I think probably not) but since this is a virtual shipwreck and an imaginary island I think I can have a make-believe book!
Last of all, if it isn’t too vain of me, I would like to take one of my own books to the sanctuary of the lean-to beneath the palm tree. I would need to be reminded of who I am – a writer – so that in all the lonely, blistering days ahead of me I did not lose sight of my true self, of what I have achieved and what I am capable of. Of all the books I have written, I am still proudest of the Lost Boys Quartet. It is the most literary of my books and the most interesting in its structure.
The four constituent books make up a palimpsest – where the artist reuses an old canvas or manuscript in such a way that the old informs and enriches the new. These four stories overlay each other, covering the same period of time seen from different viewpoints, and revolve around the fall of a young boy into a river in spate. His crisis leaches into the lives of four others who are more or less unknown to him, and yet the splash as his body hits the surging river sends out tsunamis into their lives. While I am lounging in the shade waiting for my rescuers to row across the ocean to save me, I might think of other layers to the story…..
Thank you Allie – I love that list, and the thoughts behind it. And I rather think I’d enjoy the books you write too – I must do something about that…
About the author
Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil. She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.
She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.
She has two grown-up children, one granddaughter and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.
Tall Chimneys is the sixth of her novels to be published.