Summary and book reviews of Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior

Ellie and the Harpmaker

by Hazel Prior

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior X
Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior
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  • Published:
    Aug 2019, 336 pages

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Book Summary

A rich, heartwarming and charming debut novel that reminds us that sometimes you find love in the most unexpected places.

Dan Hollis lives a happy, solitary life carving exquisite Celtic harps in his barn in the countryside of the English moors. Here he can be himself, away from social situations that he doesn't always get right or completely understand.

On the anniversary of her beloved father's death, Ellie Jacobs takes a walk in the woods and comes across Dan's barn. She is enchanted by his collection. Dan gives her a harp made of cherrywood to match her cherry socks. He stores it for her, ready for whenever she'd like to take lessons.

Ellie begins visiting Dan almost daily and quickly learns that he isn't like other people. He makes her sandwiches precisely cut into triangles and repeatedly counts the (seventeen) steps of the wooden staircase to the upstairs practice room. Ellie soon realizes Dan isn't just different; in many ways, his world is better, and he gives her a fresh perspective on her own life.

1
Dan

A woman came to the barn today. Her hair was the color of walnut wood. Her eyes were the color of bracken in October. Her socks were the color of cherries, which was noticeable because all the rest of her clothes were sad colors. She carried an enormous shoulder bag, canvas. It had a big buckle (square), but it was hanging open. The woman's mouth was open too. She was shifting from one foot to the other by the door so I told her to come in. The words came out a bit mangled due to the fact that I was wearing my mask. She asked what I'd said, so I took it off and also took off my earmuffs and I said it again. She came in. Her socks were very red indeed. So was her face.

"I'm sorry to be so rude, but I'm gobsmacked." She did look it, to be honest. "Did you . . . you didn't, did you . . . make all these?"

I told her yes.

"Wow! I just can't believe it!" she said, looking round.

I asked her why not.

"Well, it's not exactly what you expect to find in the middle ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. There are plenty of memorable scenes in the novel. Which were your favorite moments and why?
  2. Ellie has fallen in love with the idea of playing a harp. How does the reality compare with the dream? Do dreams ever turn out the way we expect?
  3. Were you surprised that Dan makes beautiful harps but doesn't play them? Why do you think that is?
  4. Why does Dan think he isn't made of the right ingredients? Are there any "right ingredients" for a relationship?
  5. How do Ellie's perceptions change throughout the novel: of Rhoda, of Clive and of herself? Can we ever really trust our own judgment of other people?
  6. Dan says, "Music helps fill up the holes that people leave behind." Is music a luxury or a lifeline? How does music change Ellie?
  7. "As I watch...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I would recommend this one for those who like unconventional characters, music, and a bit of romance (Laurie W). It should also appeal to anyone who appreciates the art of writing (Beth P). I would definitely recommend this book to book clubs. In fact, I will do so to mine! (Mary C). If you liked A Man Called Ove, then Ellie and the Harpmaker is for you (Dorinne D).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
There are moments of oddball charm here—a pheasant named Phineas figures in several of them—but this is a trifle that tries too hard to warm the heart.

Publishers Weekly
Ellie and Dan, both delightful, down-to-earth characters, selflessly put each other's needs ahead of their own, and fans of fast-paced romantic stories will enjoy watching them discover true happiness together.

Author Blurb Kristan Higgins, New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck With That
How I loved this book! An uncommonly lovely story told with elegance, insight, and so much heart. Hazel Prior's brilliant debut will delight.

Author Blurb Juliet Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Carousel of Provence
A lyrical, almost fairytale-like novel, as resonant and mysterious as a Celtic harp. The novel shines with all the grace and harmony of a handmade instrument, and shows us what can happen when a woman yearning for meaning meets a solitary man dedicated to his craft...and they both decide to open their hearts to possibility.

Author Blurb Emily Liebert, USA Today bestselling author of Some Women and Pretty Revenge
A melodious and heartwarming debut about love, friendship, and a secret that could change everything. This one is special.

Reader Reviews

Carol Peacock

A Gem of a Novel
Ellie and the Harpmaker has much to offer. Author Hazel Prior writes in such lyrical prose, her novel sometimes resonates like the chords of a harp. This nuanced story comes alive with vividly drawn characters, a suspenseful plot, and an unexpected...   Read More

Sue P. (Albuquerque, NM)

Ellie and the Harpmaker
Hazel Prior has knocked it out of the park with her debut novel. Perhaps the title should be: Ellie and the HEARTmaker. It is a story told with such love, empathy and compassion that still manages to make the characters completely authentic. I ...   Read More

Cynthia C. (Chula Vista, CA)

A Delightful Read
I found Ellie and the Harpmaker to be a simply delightful read. I wanted to read it all in one sitting, but life got in the way. You are engaged right from the beginning. The main characters are strongly developed and the writing is very descriptive....   Read More

Laurie W. (Sunnyvale, CA)

Quirky musician meets bored housewife
Dan, the harpmaker, is an engaging and quirky character that reminds me a little of Forrest Gump. He is extremely earnest, completely devoted to things he loves - making harps, taking nature walks, and making sandwiches to name a few - and rather ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Exmoor: Now and Then

Exmoor Exmoor, England is the setting for Hazel Prior's debut novel, Ellie and the Harpmaker. Designated a national park in 1954, the 267-square-mile area is divided 70/30 between Somerset and Devon counties in the southwestern corner of the country and is home to about 10,600 people. The area's landscape is incredibly varied; its rugged headlands to the north are divided by narrow, forested valleys (called "coombs"), which rise to an inland plateau of heather moors about 1000' above sea level. Many consider it to have one of the most remote shorelines in England due to its exceptionally wooded coastline and steep sea cliffs (the highest on the British mainland). The forests contain the largest stretch of woodland in the country, and over 200 ...

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