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Peculiar Ground: A Novel Audiobook, by Lucy Hughes-Hallett Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Lucy Hughes-Hallett Narrator: Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Maggie Ollershaw, Jake Curran, Peter Noble, Maggie Ollerenshaw, Anna Bentinck, Juanita McMahon, Rachel Atkins Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2018 ISBN: 9780062798428
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"Unlike anything I’ve read. With its broad scope and its intimacy and exactness, it cuts through the apparatus of life to the vivid moment. Haunting and huge, and funny and sensuous. It’s wonderful."—Tessa Hadley

The Costa Award-winning author of The Pike makes her literary fiction debut with an extraordinary historical novel in the spirit of Wolf Hall and Atonement—a great English country house novel, spanning three centuries, that explores surprisingly timely themes of immigration and exclusion.

It is the seventeenth century and a wall is being raised around Wychwood, transforming the great house and its park into a private realm of ornamental lakes, grandiose gardens, and majestic avenues designed by Mr. Norris, a visionary landscaper. In this enclosed world everyone has something to hide after decades of civil war. Dissenters shelter in the woods, lovers rendezvous in secret enclaves, and outsiders—migrants fleeing the plague—find no mercy.

Three centuries later, far away in Berlin, another wall is raised, while at Wychwood, an erotic entanglement over one sticky, languorous weekend in 1961 is overshadowed by news of historic change. Young Nell, whose father manages the estate, grows up amid dramatic upheavals as the great house is invaded: a pop festival by the lake, a television crew in the dining room, a Great Storm brewing. In 1989, as the Cold War peters out, a threat from a different kind of conflict reaches Wychwood’s walls.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett conjures an intricately structured, captivating story that explores the lives of game keepers and witches, agitators and aristocrats; the exuberance of young love and the pathos of aging; and the way those who try to wall others out risk finding themselves walled in. With poignancy and grace, she illuminates a place where past and present are inextricably linked by stories, legends, and history—and by one patch of peculiar ground.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “So clever and beautifully written, it gripped me from start to end. I abandoned work and family to finish it.”

    Roddy Doyle, New York Times bestselling author

  • “One of the best novels of the year so far.”

    Times (London)

  • “A dazzling historical novel with timelty resonances for the Trumpan present…The prose is uniformly gorgeous.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Hughes-Hallett’s ambitious first novel dances between past and present, history and modernity…The landscape of this novel—its grounds and waters and walls—is magically and movingly evoked, and remains in the imagination long after the reader passes beyond its gates.”

    New Statesman

  • “Hughes-Hallett is a master storyteller. Her prose is a treasure—evocative, rich, engaging.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “A pleasure to read for the loveliness of its language…Stunning for both its historical sweep and its elegant prose.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “An enjoyable, sprawling epic debut about an enclosed paradise…Wynchwood is a remarkable, ambivalent creation, ‘at once a sanctuary and place of internment,’ and readers will delight at strolling its grounds.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Witchcraft, ancient Roman mosaics, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, and the stirrings of Islamic fundamentalism all come into play amid themes of continuity and change.”


  • “Unlike anything I’ve read. With its broad scope and its intimacy and exactness, it cuts through the apparatus of life to the vivid moment. Haunting and huge, and funny and sensuous. It’s wonderful.”

    Tessa Hadley, author of The London Train

  • “Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s novel is immensely vivid, full of rich and deeply imagined life, and glowing with energy.”

    Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass

  • A Kirkus Reviews Pick of Early 2018 Books We Love
  • A Literary Hub Pick of the Week

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About the Author

Lucy Hughes-Hallett is the author of The Pike: Gabriele D’Annunzio, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize, the Political Book Award for Political Biography of the Year, and the Costa Biography Award; Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions, which won the Fawcett Prize and the Emily Toth Award; and Heroes: Traitors, Saviors, and Supermen.

About the Narrators

Adjoa Andoh is an Audie Award and Earphones Award–winning narrator and an actress of British film, television, stage, and radio. She is known on the UK stage for lead roles at the RSC, the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, and the Almeida Theatre, and she is a familiar face on British television. She made her Hollywood debut starring as Nelson Mandela’s chief of staff, Brenda Mazikubo, alongside Morgan Freeman as Mandela in Clint Eastwood’s Invictus.

Peter Noble, an Earphones Award–winning narrator, grew up in South Africa and studied drama and music at the University of Cape Town. He has worked extensively as an actor, touring South Africa with a small repertory theater company, as well as working on radio, TV, and film.

Maggie Ollerenshaw’s theater work is extensive, ranging from several Alan Ayckbourn roles, to Martha in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Similarly, her many television credits cover Open All Hours and The House of Eliott, to a BAFTA nomination for her performance in Last of the Summer Wine. She has written for radio and has written and performed a one-woman musical play about Vera Lynn titled Yours Sincerely.

Anna Bentinck is a British actress who trained at Arts Educational Schools and has worked extensively for BBC Radio. Winner of four AudioFile Earphones Awards, she has provided voices for many audiobooks and such animated series as 64 Zoo Lane. Her film credits include Alice in Wonderland and To the Devil a Daughter.

Juanita McMahon is an Earphones Award–winning narrator and a professionally trained actress with experience in theater, television, and film productions, including the critically acclaimed Control, which won the BIFA Best British Film Award.

Rachel Atkins, an Earphones Award–winning narrator, is also an actress, known for Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Broken Sword: Circle of Blood, and Pompeii: The Last Day.