Ellie and the Harpmaker is a darling work of fiction set in the rolling hills of Exmoor, England.
Ellie is a simple and practical woman, married to a sturdy and sometimes ill-tempered man, Clive. Though at a time she was content to be a housewife, dutifully preparing dinner each night and keeping the home, after the loss of her father she begins to grow restless with the idea of time.
That’s why when Ellie stumbles upon the quaint harp barn where a man called Dan handmakes beautiful wooden harps, she cannot believe her good luck. See, Ellie had recently created a list of things that she would like to do with her life before she turns 40. And top of that list? Learn to play the harp.
Dan, a humble man of few words is intrigued by Ellie’s ‘before 40 list’ and worried by the sadness he sees on her face. In an effort to try to cheer her up, Dan gifts Ellie with her very own a cherry wood harp.
“People say that certain sounds can melt a heart of stone. If there is anyone who has that sort of a heart―which I doubt (as far as I am aware hearts are made of fibrous materials, fluid sacs and pumping mechanisms)―if anyone does have a heart composed of granite or flint and therefore not at all prone to melting but just conceivably meltable when exposed to very beautiful sounds, then the sounds made by my cherrywood harp, I am confident, would do it. However, I had a feeling the heart of Ellie the Exmoor Housewife was completely lacking in stony components. I had a feeling it was made of much softer stuff.“
Clive however, does not approve of such a generous gift and urges Ellie to return it immediately. Ellie, feeling foolish for accepting such an extravagant and likely expensive gift from a total stranger, returns to the harp barn with all the intentions in the world to give the harp back. She really meant to…
From then on, Dan and Ellie develop a deep and caring friendship. During the hours that Clive is a work, Ellie begins to learn to play the harp in secret.
Soon, Ellie discovers a secret about Dan that would completely uproot his sheltered and insulated life. Things take a dramatic twist and neither Dan nor Ellie are able to return to the quiet lives they once lived in parallel.
I adored this novel. The chapters alternate narrators between Ellie and Dan, who are both lovely, charming and kind characters.
The two characters compliment each other so nicely. Dan’s lighthearted, simple way of looking at the world allows Ellie to play into her daydreams. Ellie’s practicality and curiosity expands Dan’s world outside the confines of his harp barn. I loved the pacing of their friendship, nothing was rushed and both characters felt completely developed by the end.
In my short review on Instagram I described this book as cozy knit sweater with a hot mug of lavender buttercream team on the English countryside, and it’s exactly that (or at least, what I imagine that would be like).
Ellie and the Harpmaker is a sweet, clever, romantic and entertaining read. The plot was simple enough to follow with ease while still containing twists and turns to keep me entertained. A truly heartwarming read about the goodness of the human spirit, kindness and friendship. AKA my kind of read.
Reviewed by: Annie
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