Sometimes facts can grab you – an anekdote, a story, something that happened long ago. Apparently, when that happens to Julie Houston, she turns it into a book. And, well… Now Coming Home to Holly Close Farm has grabbed me.
I was offered an ARC by Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are strictly my own.
Charlie Maddison loves being an architect in London, but when she finds out her boyfriend, Dominic is actually married, she runs back to the beautiful countryside of Westenbury and her parents. Charlie’s sister Daisy, a landscape gardener, is also back home in desperate need of company and some fun.
Their great-grandmother, Madge – now in her early nineties – reveals she has a house, Holly Close Farm, mysteriously abandoned over sixty years ago, and persuades the girls to project manage its renovation.
As work gets underway, the sisters start uncovering their family’s history, and the dark secrets that are hidden at the Farm. A heart-breaking tale of wartime romance, jealousy and betrayal slowly emerges, but with a moral at its end: true love can withstand any obstacle, and, before long, Charlie dares to believe in love again too…
This book actually tells two stories. The first, that of Charlie and Daisy, both thwarted by love, back home with their parents, and not necessarily too happy about it. Let’s be real – once you’ve moved out, I don’t know too many people that would be happy to move back in. Or too many parents that would want to give up their re-found freedom, honestly.
There’s a second layer to Coming Home to Holly Close Farm, though, and that’s the part that really brings the entire thing to live. As the sisters start to built both their great-grandmother’s house and their lives back up, they also discover the story of exactly who Madge, their great-grandmother is.
Something I pay specific attention to when reading any book that focuses on family, is to what extent the author manages to make these relations feel real. Not just bickering, but the love, the stupid jokes, the long-standing annoyances… It’s the combination of all those things that, for me, makes a semi-well-functioning family. And, as I also said about Julie Houston’s A Village Affair, she manages to get that just right.
Another thing I’m learning Houston does incredibly well, is the opening to her books. I mean, you know… Charlie tries to go home, to find out her boyfriend’s apartment has had the locks changed. By his wife. Whom she didn’t know existed. Oh, and who owns the apartment. And the company Charlie’s working for. Talk about having a bad day, right?
My favourite thing about this book probably wasn’t even the writing style – although that pulled me write into the story. It wasn’t the descriptions of the beautiful Holly Close Farm either, although I definitely would go visit there. It wasn’t even the full range of characters, their development throughout the story or the way so much thought was clearly put into the parallels between Charlie’s and Madge’s story line.
No, probably my favourite thing from Coming Home to Holly Close Farm? The ending. Because it felt so right for the story, so respectful towards my two favourite characters… Honestly, just for that ending – I’d advise you to read the entire thing 😉
The rating: 5/5
I absolutely loved this book. It’s more of a serious read than I was expecting from the description, but in the most positive way. The characters were well developed, there were definitely a couple of twists and turns I did not see coming… And by the end? Well, let’s just say I had a bit of dust in my eyes… (Goodreads)