The Very Thought of You

A Novel

The Very Thought of You

Shortlisted for the 2010 Orange Prize

England, 31st August 1939: The world is on the brink of war. As Hitler prepares to invade Poland, thousands of children are evacuated from London to escape the impending Blitz. Torn from her mother, eight-year-old Anna Sands is relocated with other children to a large Yorkshire estate which has been opened up to evacuees by Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, an enigmatic, childless couple. Soon Anna gets drawn into their unraveling relationship, seeing things that are not meant for her eyes and finding herself part-witness and part-accomplice to a love affair with unforeseen consequences. A story of longing, loss, and complicated loyalties, combining a sweeping narrative with subtle psychological observation, The Very Thought of You is not just a love story but a story about love.
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 336 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451613971 | 
  • July 2011
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Very Thought of You includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. 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.


In the summer of 1939, as the impending German Blitz looms on the horizon, thousands of children are evacuated from London to the secluded English countryside. Among them is Anna Sands, a quiet but determined eight-year-old girl who soon finds herself living in a vast manor house on the Ashton estate in Yorkshire.

Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton are an enigmatic, childless couple, struggling with their slowly unraveling marriage. In an attempt to salvage their life together, they open their home to these children—turning the estate into a school and attempting to keep the war from entering their isolated little world. But in doing so, they irrevocably change the course of their own relationship.

Anna, sensitive and observant, soon becomes aware of the secrets and intimacies that live behind closed doors in the house, enacted in shadow by its occupants. Growing deeply attached to the gentle, compassionate Thomas, she ultimately finds herself part witness, part accomplice to his love affair—an affair that she does not quite understand, an affai see more

Articles About This Book

Off the shelf vertical blog post

Posted on Off the Shelf

Posted by Off the Shelf Staff

From the front lines to the home front, there are as many stories written about WWII as there were stories lived. This is a sample of books that manage to slow the hurlyburly of war to strings ofsingle moments thattell individual stories as unique...

About the Author

Rosie Alison
Photograph by Adrian Lourie

Rosie Alison

Rosie Alison grew up in Yorkshire, and read English at Keble College, Oxford. She spent ten years directing television documentaries before becoming a film producer at Heyday Films. She is married with two daughters and lives in London. This is her first novel.