A Novel


A novel about people, a country estate, and living history

“The house contains time. Its walls hold stories. Births and deaths, comings and goings, people and events passing through. . . . For now, however, it lies suspended in a kind of emptiness, as if it has fallen asleep or someone has put it under a spell. This silence won’t last: can’t last. Something will have to be done.”

When brother and sister Charlie and Ros discover that they have inherited their aunt’s grand English country house, they must decide if they should sell it. As they survey the effects of time on the estate’s architectural treasures, a narrative spanning two and a half centuries unfolds. We meet those who built the house, lived in it and loved it, worked in it, and those who would subvert it to their own ends. Each chapter is skillfully woven into the others so that the storylines of the upstairs and downstairs characters and their relatives and descendants intertwine to make a rich tapestry. A beautifully written novel full of humor, heart, and poignancy, Ashenden is an evocative portrait of a house that becomes a character as compelling as the people who inhabit it.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451684872 | 
  • January 2013
List Price $11.99 (price may vary by retailer)

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Ashenden includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Elizabeth Wilhide. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Ashenden is the story of a magnificent English country house, the estate that surrounds it, and the people connected to it over the course of 240 years. From its construction in 1775 to the present day, we are witness to the people associated with the house: the architect and his nieces to the successions of families, both happy and not, who inhabit it—the maids and servants who tend the house and grounds; a speculator who resides in the house nearly alone; soldiers billeted there during World War I; prisoners held there during World War II; the couple who rescues it from doom in the 1950s and their descendants, who inherit it in 2010. Throughout all the upheavals of a multicentury life, a constant cycle of neglect and regeneration, and the toll of history, the house withstands it all, always strong enough to endure change.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. Ashenden opens in the present day with siblings Charlie and Ros debating what to do with the h see more

About the Author

Elizabeth Wilhide
Photograph courtesy of the author

Elizabeth Wilhide

Elizabeth Wilhide is the author of more than twenty books on interior design, decoration, and architecture and a coauthor and contributor of many more. Born in the United States, she moved to Britain in 1967, where she lives with her husband.