Harry Fox-Talbot better known as “Fox” is a young composer living in the shadows of his older brothers who have recently returned from fighting overseas in WWII. They’ve returned to Hartgrove Hall, the family estate that is in vast disrepair, especially after being occupied by British troops during the war. They clean up the place as best they can to host a New Year’s Eve party. His older, glamorous brother Jack brings home Edie Rose, “England’s Rose” who has sung many popular patriotic songs during the war. Fox is instantly smitten, but loving your brother’s girl is not proper. When the three brothers learn that their father, “the General” wants to tear the house down in order to sell the property, they decide to try their hand at farming and raising enough money to save the place. Fox finds himself torn. He loves music and collecting old ballads that have not been written down, but he is not able to find his passion with farming and dreams about returning to school . . . and Edie.
Fifty years later, Fox is trying to live life again after the death of his beloved wife. He discovers that his young four year old grandson, Robin, is a musical prodigy. He starts to teach him piano himself, but soon brings in his friends to help and give advice on what will be best for Robin’s future. Through Robin, Fox feels he is living again. He also feels the pull of music and of writing one last great composition.
I enjoyed how the story flipped back and forth every other chapter through time. I wasn’t quite sure what had happened in the past to bring Fox to his future and it was wonderful putting all of the pieces together. I also liked how there was forgiveness in the future as well.
I also thought an interesting subtext was that Edie Rose was Jewish and what dynamic that played at times through the novel. I want a book just on Edie and her back story!
I loved the musical world that was woven throughout this novel. It was fascinating reading “A Note on Song Collecting” at the close of the novel that tells all about how people have performed this important past time to preserve our musical heritage. I loved how Fox had his compositions and musical collections and how his Song of Hartford Hall and musical festival held at the hall helped to save his home even though his farming skills could not. I also enjoyed his friends and how he met them in the past and how important they were to him even as an old man.
Overall, The Song at Hargrove Hall is a wonderful historical fiction read with great characters, a unique setting, and a fascinating premise. I highly recommend it. I also thought it was a good fit as I get ready to enjoy the next season of Downton Abbey on what the future could hold for that great estate as well.
Book Source: Review Copy from Penguin Random House. Thank-you!