Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017
‘A man’s eye is accommodative, like his heart.’
Samuel Browne’s wife has left him suddenly after three years of marriage. She invites him to ‘go and live a better life without me’. He must start again, and alone.
And so it is that Sam finds himself deep in the English countryside in a cold but characterful old house, remote and encircled by hills, in the employment and company of an older, wiser man, a man as fond of mystery as he is of enlightenment. What is the purpose of the seemingly hopeless task set for Sam in the house’s ancient library? What is the secret of the unused room? And where does a life lose its way or gain its meaning?
The combe is home to a truth born of fraud, a building made of light, and a family wrecked by recklessness: loss and love reverberate around the house and around the novel, providing pleasure, pain and purpose. Combe Hall is a house designed to honour and to enthral. And this very fine debut novel does exactly the same.
'A bibliophile’s delight, a mystery, a tease, a frisson of dread, a fugue, a literary detective story, a philosophical fable - its imagination exquisitely calibrated to a gentle Gothicism where Bach, Coleridge, Thomas Chatterton and Edgar Allan Poe flit among the shades. Thomas Maloney’s perfectly-judged story, with its vital and resonant sense of place, will surely become one of the beloved arcana of English fiction.'
Jim Perrin, author of West: A Journey Through the Landscapes of Loss
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'An ingenious and atmospheric first novel, inspired by the discovery of a mysterious library lost deep in the English countryside, and vibrating with the literary and musical echoes of late Romanticism, and lots of weather.’
Richard Holmes, author of Coleridge and The Age of Wonder
‘An exceptional first novel – intelligent, intriguing, wonderfully written, and rich with an atmosphere and sense of place that make it a joy to read.’
James Wilson, author of The Summer of Broken Stories
'A very unusual book, at once a trickster tale and a commentary on the canonical texts of Romanticism.'
Joanne Limburg, author of A Want of Kindness
‘An atmospheric novel sprinkled with literary and musical allusion.’
Cameron Woodhead, Sydney Morning Herald
‘Beautiful … An intriguing gothic mystery.’
Fanny Blake, Daily Mail
‘A literary hall of mirrors with echoes and ripples running through it.’