Ellie and the Harp Maker – Hazel Prior

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior. As someone who loves music and plays some instruments (to varying levels of success), this book immediately called out to me (with the gentle, resonant plucking of a harp!).

One day, on a bit of a whim, Ellie, stumbles across a barn in the beautiful hills of Exmoor. There lives Dan, the Exmoor Harp Maker, who lives a content and uncomplicated life making and selling exquisite harps. Ellie introduces herself to Dan as ‘a housewife’ and thus becomes known to him as ‘The Exmoor Housewife’. It turns out that Ellie is approaching her birthday, and that playing the harp is something on a list of things she wants to do before she turns 40. Somewhat unexpectedly, Dan decides to give Ellie a harp. She looks sad and playing the harp is something she wants to do, and so to Dan this is an extremely simple and uncomplicated decision. It’s a wonderful and pure act, which completely sums Dan up and paves the way for the rest of the story to unfold.

Three melodies sang out to me through Ellie and the Harp Maker – those were themes of kindness, nature and music. Prior treats these themes with such respect and a simple honesty, as they are brought to life through her lyrical writing and wonderful characters.

While the narration of this story alternates between Dan and Ellie, for me the heart of this story lay with Dan – he is a very endearing character and I found his eccentricities completely refreshing. Dan is used to the solitude of his life alone in the woods and feels that he does’t always get social situations right. Although he finds social conventions difficult to navigate, he has such natural, innate kindness and heart that it leaves you really questioning society’s insistence on doing things a certain way. Dan’s wonderful approach to the world, to me epitomes true kindness and true connection with others.

There is something so joyful and honest about the role of both music and nature in the book, which I found really inspiring! Many of the characters have such respect for the natural landscape painted for us in the novel. Exmoor is, in many ways, one of the central characters in this book – it completely comes to life – moving, dancing and changing before our eyes. As (somewhat of) a musician myself, I absolutely loved that music was another central theme to this book. I really connected with the descriptions of how hearing, practising and producing music can make you feel, and why it is so important.

Finally, look out for some wonderful quirky touches in this lovely book – there are some really warm and funny sections that will make you chuckle. Not least the sudden appearance of a pheasant named Phineas…! Intrigued? You should be!

Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blog tour and to the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for my review. There are still a few more days to come on the blog tour and make sure you also check out all the reviews from earlier in the tour!

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