A Novel


A beautifully atmospheric debut about 240 years in the life of an English country house, “this book is a sparkling jewel: full of fascinating detail, high drama, and sly wit” (Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire).


When brother and sister Charlie and Ros discover that they have inherited Ashenden, the beautiful eighteenth-century English country house steeped in their family history, they face an important decision: Do they try to keep it or do they sell it?

In a beguiling narrative spanning two and a half centuries, we meet those who have built the house, lived in it, loved it, and those who would subvert it to their own ends. The walls of Ashenden echo with the lives of the architect who directs the building of the house in 1775, the wealthy Henderson family in their heyday, the maid who is tempted to solve her problems by stealing a trinket, the Jazz Age speculator who hosts a fabulous treasure hunt, the prisoners held there during World War II, and the young couple who lovingly restore it in the 1950s.

With upstairs and downstairs storylines intertwining to form a rich tapestry, Ashenden is an evocative portrait of a house that is a character as compelling as the people who inhabit it.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451697896 | 
  • November 2013
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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.