A welcome reissue of Mary Stewart’s novella, this story is set in 1940s England, and features Gilly Ramsey, a young woman who inherits her favorite aunt Geillis’s country house named Thornyhold. Upon taking possession of the house, Gilly meets the curious Agnes Trapp, her aunt’s former housekeeper, who dabbles in potions and spells. Gilly suspects Mrs. Trapp is anxious to get her hands on a lost ancient book of potions hidden in the house, and namely, one important love potion.
As the plot unravels, Gilly discovers much about her favorite aunt, including her serious study and practice of herbalism, poisons, and her practice of caring for carrier pigeons. As a result of eating Mrs.Trapp’s pie, Geillis has a strange dream in which she flies as a witch; she realizes later the dream is a result of Agnes’s tampering with her food. Enter a kindly neighbor, Christopher John, and his son William who provide insight into the doings of the local community and potential romance for Geillis.
Mary Stewart’s style is engaging and her descriptions rich with sensory detail. We experience the enchantment of the peculiar house, and we enjoy the sympathetic characters she enlivens in her narrative. There is enough tension throughout the book to keep the reader guessing. Thornyhold casts its own magical spell on us.