1 Book Club Kit Inside this kit is all you need for a lovely book club get-together and a cozy afternoon escape to the Dorset countryside. NatashaSolomons.com NatashaSolomons NatashaSolomonsAuthor
2 Booksellers adore The song of hartgrove hall Solomons has written a symphony of a book. Just as good as her earlier book The House at Tyneford. BETH CARPENTER, A Country Bookshop (Southern Pines, NC) [Natasha Solomons is] a fantastic writer, and the whole thing is terrifically evocative. It s unfair that we were born in the present-day U.S., no? DREW, The Writer s Block (Las Vegas, NV) Fifty years of love, honor, duty and betrayals... This is the perfect book for singing in the New Year. BARBARA THEROUX, Fact and Fiction (Missoula, MT) A joy to read... Fills one with hope of restoration in the face of loss. VICKI LAW BERGER, Wind City Books (Casper, WY) A compelling novel filled with all the requirements for a good read a love story, family bonds, betrayal, forgiveness and all of this takes place at a grand old English country estate... Would highly recommend it. SUE, Breakwater Books (Guilford, CT) I m about 50 pages from the end and I LOVE IT. KRISTINE, Snowgoose Books (Stanwood, WA) Natasha Solomons captures the breadth of family life in all its drama and joy... A wonderful read! BEVERLY, Bookends (Winchester, MA) Transport[s] the reader back in time to England in the 1940 s... A redemptive story of adoration, personal growth and forgiveness! CHRIS, The Bookshelf (Cincinnati, OH) The Song of Hartgrove Hall is so satisfyingly sensual! The pictures, smells, textures, tastes, and especially the music.... The book sticks like an old folk song after you re done. I really, really liked it. LYNNE, Valley Bookseller (Stillwater, MN)
3 Wine and dine with The song of hartgrove hall Hot Toddy Ingredients 1 oz (2 tablespoons) bourbon 1 tablespoon mild honey 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup boiling-hot water Put bourbon, honey, and lemon juice in a 6-ounce mug. Top off with hot water and stir until honey is dissolved. Source: epicurious.com Classic Scones with Mock Clotted Cream Ingredients 2 cups cake flour, more as needed ½ teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking powder 3 tablespoons sugar 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces 1 egg ½ to ¾ cup heavy cream, more for brushing 1 cup mascarpone 6 tablespoons heavy cream Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the flour, salt, baking powder and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the egg and just enough cream to form a slightly sticky dough. If it s too sticky, add a little flour, but very little; it should still stick a little to your hands. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead once or twice, then press it into a 3/4-inch-thick circle and cut into 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass. Put the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet. Gently reshape the leftover dough and cut again. Brush the top of each scone with a bit of cream and sprinkle with a little of the remaining sugar. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the scones are a beautiful golden brown. Serve immediately. To prepare the mock clotted cream, in a medium bowl whisk together the mascarpone and cream until thick and stiff. Chill until ready to serve. Source: cooking.nytimes.com
4 Recipes from Natasha Solomons Clive s Sloe Gin (to make you sing) Ingredients 1 gallon sloes (or plums) 1 gallon gin 1/2 gallon sugar Fox drinks a great deal of gin during The Song of Hartgrove Hall. I m not sure how many times it seemed impolite to count. This recipe is my dad s and it seems very appropriate and is also my favourite winter s drink. I make it in October when the sloes on the blackthorn have grown into little polished plums. Either you need to wait until after the first frost or pop them in the freezer so the skins pop. Pick a gallon of sloes and add a gallon of cheap gin (my father maintains that any recipe that involves a gallon of gin must be good) and half a gallon of sugar. Mix in a big bowl and pour back into bottles using a funnel. Don t worry if the sloes pop as they go back into the bottles, it will just make the drink extra delicious. Put the filled bottles in a cool, dark place and shake weekly. Drink at Christmas before a roaring fire. I find it too sweet and strong neat, so I prefer a Sloe Gin and Tonic the perfect winter s version of the English classic G and T. Serve with ice and a sprig of rosemary and a slice of lemon. English Lemon Drizzle Cake Ingredients 3 oz self raising flour 3 oz caster sugar 2 small eggs 3 oz softened butter 1/2 teaspoon baking powder Zest of 1/2 lemon For topping: Juice of a lemon 2oz granulated sugar I come from a family of excellent bakers but I m terrible my cakes sink instead of rise and I have a tendency to leave out vital ingredients but even I can manage this treat while chasing two small children around a (hopelessly chaotic) kitchen. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Then add to a lined and greased loaf tin and bake in a medium oven (180 degrees) for about half an hour. Meanwhile, tell your toddler that he can finally clean the bowl with his finger and then inform him that yes, this is the licky bit. Allow the cake to cool for a little then, while still warm, pour over the topping of lemon juice and crunchy sugar. Serve with a cup of Earl Grey Tea and a copy of The Times newspaper, or a battered Pride and Prejudice. If your book club is looking for something savory, check out the last page for a delicious lamb recipe!
5 Classical Music Playlist Including songs that Harry Fox-Talbot and grandson Robin play in the book Mozart s Toy Symphony Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending Chopin s Nocturne Op.9 No.2 Beethoven s Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, also known as Appassionata Chopin s Piano Concerto No. 2 Click to listen to the playlist
6 About Dorset Dorset is a historic county of southwestern England. It is bordered by the English Channel (south) and the counties of Devon (west), Hampshire (east), and Somerset and Wiltshire (both north). The historic town of Dorchester, in the south, is the county seat. Dorset is mainly rural. Agriculture remains the major use of land. Dorset is steeped in history, and was the inspiration for Thomas Hardy s Casterbridge. Locally quarried Portland and Purbeck stone is abundant in Dorset s old stone buildings. Old world thatched cottages are typical in this area, as are many beautiful old manors and farmhouses, which are a reminder of its rich agricultural heritage. Dorset s charming countryside has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Sources: britannica.com/place/dorset-county-england travelaboutbritain.com/dorset/dorset.php visit-dorset.com/about-the-area
7 Discussion questions 1. Hartgrove Hall is in and of itself an important character in the novel. How would you describe it? Discuss its many uses, both as a gathering space for personal and family functions and for the community. Do they change over time? 2. In the A Note on Song Collecting section that follows the novel s conclusion, Solomons discusses the tradition of song collecting. How does song collecting relate to cultural identity? At which points does Fox feel an urgency to preserve history in The Song of Hartgrove Hall? 3. The theme of maternal loss is present throughout The Song of Hartgrove Hall. How does Fox seek out his mother s memory? How do his daughters cope with the loss of their mother? When does Fox feel their grief most acutely? 4. On page 3 of the book, Fox reveals that So many people think they knew [Edie]. The Little Nightingale. England s perfect rose. Why don t these people actually know Edie? What aspects of her history and personality was Edie most hesitant to share? Why do you think she was able to confide in Fox? 5. Early in the novel it is revealed that Edie suffers from crippling stage fright, yet she performs consummately. Discuss the difference between her personal and professional identities and how they manifest in various social situations. Which version of herself is Edie most comfortable displaying? How does she transition between the two? 6. Discuss Fox s role as a grandfather, both before and after discovering Robin s piano acumen. Is he comfortable being a grandparent? How do memories of Edie help guide him as he assumes this role? 7. Who most influenced Fox s career as a composer? When the music in his head stops after Edie s death, what restores his musicality? 8. How is masculinity discussed within the novel? What type of masculinity does the General value? Is Fox s idea of masculinity different? When does Fox feel insecure about himself? 9. Discuss Fox s relationship with his daughters. How would you characterize their interactions? How does Fox s relationship with Clara change after her divorce?
8 10. Compare Fox s relationship with Jack to his relationship with George. What do the brothers have in common? After their decision to turn Hartgrove Hall into a working farm, how does their relationship change? 11. Discuss the sojourn to Scotland that takes place in How is this trip restorative for Fox? How does he grow during this time? 12. The Song of Hartgrove Hall is a novel about grieving as much as it is one about healing. Discuss the intimate moments wherein Fox reveals his grief over Edie s death to the reader. Is his sadness alleviated over time? How does his state of mind change throughout the novel? 13. Edie s Jewish identity is revealed suddenly and cruelly to Fox by the General, but Fox does not discuss it with her directly for years. Why do you think he is hesitant to approach the topic? Does Fox seem accepting of her cultural heritage? 14. As the plot shifts between the past and the present, Solomons slowly reveals each character s motivations. Who surprised you the most? 15. Recall the scene on page 196 in which Marcus reveals to Fox that he is dying. How does that conversation affect Fox? What actions does he take to ensure that his friend feels comforted during this time? 16. Edie and Fox s relationship is a storied romance, yet it is borne out of deceit and manipulation. Did the revelation of their infidelities affect your understanding of each character? 17. Discuss Fox s decision to reconcile with Jack. Why do you think he brought Robin with him to Florida? Were you surprised by how Jack received them? How did you interpret their last scene together?
9 Questions for the author The Song of Hartgrove Hall is a multi-textured novel, touching upon themes of love, loss, creativity, and mortality, while also weaving together two distinct timelines. What was the most challenging aspect of the writing process for you? What was the most rewarding? There were a number of challenges. Since the novel moves between two distinct time periods, I needed to make sure that it still felt like a single narrative rather than two stories jammed together. Sometimes when I read novels with a dual narrative I find that I much prefer one to the other. I really hoped to avoid that by making both parts fit together as a single piece, where a question raised in one section is then developed or answered in the following one. Part of this was about finding Fox s voice or rather both of them his voice at nineteen and then again as an older man in his seventies and beyond. This was probably the greatest challenge. I needed not only to write as a man but as a man at two very different times of life. The voices had to be different but the reader needed to absolutely believe that it was still the same person. I think you can detect the slight tendency toward self-aggrandising and dare I say it? pomposity at nineteen that Fox later displays as a grand old man. His sense of humour and ability to laugh at himself punctures this and his humour in particular remains the same at the various stages of life. I really loved writing as a man. It s one of the tremendous freedoms of being a writer as opposed to say an actor one can imagine and transform oneself into anyone else, unlimited by gender, age, race, or nationality. As long as you can imagine it, you can write it. What was the inspiration for this novel? How did you come across the art of song collecting? This novel really has two inspirations: The first is, of course, song collecting, which I discuss in the note in the back. The second is grandparents. My son is the seventh of my parents grandchildren and I think their excitement at the prospect of number seven was not quite as ribald as it had been for number one. Yet, when he appeared, my mother and my son had an instant connection. This has only grown stronger with time they re incredibly close, always colluding over something. He does a little dance every time he sees her. I wanted to explore this relationship but without it being too autobiographical. Writing about a grandmother and grandchild would have felt too limiting as I would have felt my mother peering over my shoulder and making helpful suggestions. The relationship between a grandparent and grandchild is both wonderful and complicated. It s a negotiated relationship where the grandparents, however much they may love the child, must remember they are not the parent. Fox particularly struggles with this. I think he is as desperate to offer gentle advice as my mother. They d get on well.... Author photo David Solomons
10 How did the writing process for The Song of Hartgrove Hall differ from that of your previous novels? Did this require more research? This is the first novel I ve written since having children so the process is different in that if my son is at nursery or with his grandparents, then I m in the studio writing. There is no time for ritual, only a cup of tea. The muse had better find me at my desk. All my novels have required a fair amount of research. I read several biographies of composers, articles on child prodigies, as well as collaborating with various musicians and song collectors. I spent a lot of time at music festivals and listening and talking to folk singers and traditional musicians. The song collecting community in the UK has been amazing teaching me about song collecting as well as how to sing old folk songs. I decided that to really understand these ancient songs, I needed to learn how to sing them in the old style. I ve been quite overwhelmed at the generosity of musicians and their willingness to collaborate. I m also lucky to have a few friends who are composers who were very helpful and read the manuscript at various stages. Do you also sing or play an instrument? I used to sing at university in a choir called the Madrigirls I never can resist a choir with a bad pun in the name. Tim Laycock, the celebrated folk musician, taught me to sing folk songs. The plan was for me to sing at all my book events, but by the time the book was published in the UK, I was heavily pregnant with my second child and had no room to breathe! I also play the flute very badly. Whenever I take my flute out, my son says, No Mummy, put the flute back in the flute house. What s next for you? I ve just had my second child, so I m going to take a little time to be with the children, but I expect that before long my fingers will start to itch.... I ll pop the baby in a sling and go down to the sea, listen to the waves, and start to think.
11 Enjoy a Dorset Dinner A recipe from Natasha Solomons Two Mile Lamb with Cider I know Americans think the British are obsessed with eating lamb, and that s because it s true. There are an awful lot of sheep in Dorset so we wear lots of woolly jumpers and eat a lot of stew. I make this stew with our neighbour s hogget (sheep that s older than lamb but younger than mutton) and local cider from the village cider collective. It s very strong and will make you very tipsy simply by having a good whiff. Ingredients 4lbs lamb and bones if you can 1 lb carrots 3 lbs potatoes 1 lb parsnips 1 gallon of cider Meat stock to top up Rosemary, sage and any herbs lying about the veg patch Dice the meat mine is never very fine, I get bored and am generally too busy drinking cider by this point. Brown it slightly, then chop and toss all the other ingredients in a large casserole dish. Make sure it s covered with liquid add stock if you don t have enough cider. Cook in a low oven for at least 4 hours, checking every now and again that it s not going dry. Top up with cider or stock as necessary. Our cider is very alcoholic, so if you can t get any use white wine as well as American cider.