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3.8 out of 5 stars
The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2014
What can I say? I didn't enjoy it at all. I don't know what I expected but for me it was just a group of unlikeable characters feeling sorry for themselves.
Ed, the main character, faffs about in France for 5 years, ignores all his correspondence & then gets all emotional because he discovers that he is likely to lose his family inheritance - the Hall of the title. We follow his attempts to save the property & share his sorrow at the inevitable loss. But the sorrow is for himself & he seems indifferent to the lives that are also affected such as his loyal butler & the tenants on his land who are now left homeless. Ed "ends up" in a small cottage which frankly sounds like the stuff of dreams for most of us.
Along the way we meet other objectionable characters who all behave horribly. One in particular suddenly behaves in a way I had serious problems accepting. I don't want to spoil the story if you haven't read it yet - but REALLY?! REALLY??!!
So, was I supposed to feel sympathy for these characters? I didn't. I was just left feeling sad about Horace & Billy & Millie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Back in 2006 I picked up Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and thought here is someone really good with a lot of talent. A lovely satire on the Civil Service and middle class angst - sort of like a contemporary Wodehouse.

Next novel was also very clever in that it started at the end and worked forwards.

Since then I have become less impressed with each novel.

This novel has some fine comic moments (that's why it had some stars) and some lyrical writing but absolutely lacks any subtlety or depth. Imagine Mills and Boon with 5% of Tom Sharpe.

The characters are formulaic, loyal retainers loosing their marbles, wicked property developers, princess in a castle (well actually a dilapidated country house) and a fey old lady. Then it all comes to a non-conclusion.

Maybe he should slow down a bit when it comes to churning out the novels. This really undershoots his talent.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel is a quick and easy read. It tells the story of Ed Hartlepool, who returns from a lengthy sojourn in France to find that the estate which he has inherited has run out of funds, and is now seriously in debt. Plans are afoot to sell and redevelop the estate, and Ed has no choice but to agree. Another of his problems is that upon his return, he finds that an elderly woman, Lady Alice, has taken up residence in his absence (as she is only in her sixties, I would take issue with the author's descripton of papery skin and aged demeanour!). Who is this stranger, and what is she doing in his house? In addition to these two characters there is Annabel, a childhood friend of Ed's who lives with her elderly and difficult father, and longs for her freedom.

These are the bare bones of the plot, which meanders along pleasantly enough, and in the end, some of the questions (who is Lady Alice? What will happen to Ed? How will Annabel cope with the dramatic event that takes place in her own life?) are anwered. But this novel, by an established and well-known author, doesn't really cut the mustard for me. Certainly I was interested to know what happened, but I didn't really engage with any of the charaacters (except perhaps Lady Alice), and I found that Annabel's raction to the events in her own life (no details, to avoid spoilers) unbelievable. And while there were some answers, the novel seemed to end in mid air, and I found its ending unsatisfactory.

In conclusion, while pleasant enough, this novel was a disappointment. I hesitated over the star rating, but as I wouldn't really recommend it, I'm afraid I can't give it more than three stars.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Ed Hartlepool has been living an aimless life in the South of France for five years when his accountant writes to say that his exile has ended - there has been a settlement between the trustees of Hartlepool Estate and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. For Ed is the son of the 4th Marquess of Hartlepool and now he must return to his family estate in England to take up his responsibilities. Ed has been adept at avoiding anything but a life of leisure before now - however he can no longer avoid making decisions.

When he returns to England, Hartlepool Hall seems much as it always has. Horace, the elderly butler, is still in place, as is the housekeeper. There are fresh flowers provided in the near empty house and a full larder, in case of guests. In fact, Ed does have a guest - an elderly visitor named Lady Alice, who Ed does not know has installed herself in his absence. At first, Ed thinks his first concern is to rid himself of this unwanted visitor, but then finds he has more pressing problems; namely that he can no longer afford to live in his family home. Old friend Annabel Gazebee, still living with her elderly father, remembers Hartlepool Hall as the place she loved best when she was young, but her brash new boyfriend, Geoff, sees it as a property development.

All Ed wants is to live the life of his forefathers. Instead he finds himself under pressure from all sides to stop himself from becoming bankrupt and homeless. This is a very moving novel as Ed discovers who he really is and what his family and the family home actually mean to him. There is also a very tragic element to this novel, as well as some laugh out loud moments which are horrible and yet hilarious. All in all, a wonderful book from the fantastic Mr Torday. If you like this then try his recent novella, Breakfast at the Hotel Déjà vu: A Novella, which is every bit as good as his novels.
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I only stumbled across Paul Torday last year, but he is an interesting author who is having some fun with a series of books that interlink, play with different inspirations, and build into a picture of early 21st century British society.

His last book, More Than You Can Sayhad a rather Buchanesque plot involving MI5 and foreign terrorists, from whom the two main characters were on the run. They holed up for a few days at Hartlepool Hall, owned by tax exile Ed Hartlepool - who was, we were given to understand, absolutely loaded (enough to maintain a full country house for years even though he didn't live there).

In "Legacy", we now learn more about Ed and his family and house. We are also introduced to Ed's old friend Annabel. Things are not going as well as they seemed, and Ed has to come home to sort them out. Of course, as he's never lifted a finger in his family affairs, he doesn't do very well. While the Hartlepools were originally a wealthy family of manufacturers, four generations ago they turned their backs on "trade" and just begun spending the money instead. Now things are in a mess. Can Ed save the Hall from sale to property developers? Should he?

At one level we are, I think, in familiar territory here, with the fate of a Big House (in particular, its decline) standing for the country as a whole, and I think Torday makes a fairly crude point here about the Hartlepools' neglect of what made them wealthy in the first place. I was rather reminded of Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger which is, though, on the surface, less of a "state of the nation" book and more of a psychological study (if not a tragedy). However, "Legacy" has its depths, and this is also a well written and convincing account of a young man and his immediate family background. While Ed has not caused the ruin of his family fortune - that was already well under way before he was born - there is a logic to his own sense of disengagement, which he needs to overcome if he is to save anything from the wreckage. Ed needs to accept that it is his own life he needs to make something of, rather than either living for the past or simply turning his back on it.

While I enjoyed this book, I do have a couple of quibbles. I don't think that there are still many Hartlepool Halls around now that have lasted so well but which then suddenly fall as described here. Didn't most of them fall into ruin by the 1950s or at the latest, the 60s? If there were any, and they were threatened as portrayed here, I suspect English Heritage would have a lot to say. And in the last chapter Torday switches to a rather heavy handed authorial voice that more or less tells us what to think, something I resent. Perhaps it's wrong to expect Torday, in exploring these themes, to be too realistic? Overall, this is an entertaining book, adding to the structure he is building up, and well worth a read.
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Torday returns here to territory familiar from `The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce' - the notion that a inheritance is about far more than money or tangible artefacts, and is inherited by more than the legatee; here, in fact, it is not so much `legacy' as `fall out'. The problem, however, in portraying characters who are emotional disengaged with each other, is that if the author does the job too well, then the reader can not engage with them either. The writer does manage to salvage the main protagonist, Ed Hartlepool, from this fate, and there are indeed signs of regeneration for him, as he has learned affection for the mysterious Lady Alice, and has come to terms with dramatic downsizing and coping with everyday life for himself. His old friend, Annabel, is not reprieved, and her failure to benefit from her drastic solution to the moribund relationship with a totally dislikeable father is actually more depressing than the solution itself. Annabel's lover is perhaps the least well realised of all: a nouveau riche property developer who is little more than a pantomime baddy.
It is then, a patchy work, overall, but I have to say I still found it a gripping enough narrative to read straight through at one sitting.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2012
I am a fan of Paul Torday's books, and I was eager to read the Legacy of Hartlepool. It was a total disappointment.
Everything, from the characters (all unplausible or bearly sketched) to the House ( few interesting descriptions) to the story( the main charactere cannot be THAT naive, his friend cannot be THAT negligent, another cannot be THAT clueless ,a fourth THAT passive...) which never grips your attention and which you never believe. Even Humor is in short supply.
Paul Torday's, has pull a fast one with this book. A big disappointment.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There's no getting away from the fact that this is an elegantly written book. I've never read any Torday before and his prose is a delight; easy but not banal, gently evocative and succinct. As such this book is pleasurable to digest- rather like a like a toasted marshmallow- and I am sure once anybody starts reading this book, they will effortlessly make it to the end.

But here's the rub: at the end of it, I felt strangely empty. Although it had hardly been an un-enjoyable experience, I still couldn't shake off a nagging feeling of, well okay so that was it, but... so what? In fact to be honest, I began to realise early in the book the only real kick I was getting out of it was its location [and trying to work out exactly where Hartlepool Hall was]; I was born and bred in Darlington and lived in Shildon for a while, and so was amused to find in this book, it had an Earl!

Ed [Simmonds] Hartlepool is the last in a line of a North-Eastern aristocratic family, whose earlier generations had made a fortune from the industrial revolution. In fact they'd made so much from coal, iron and steel, that the next few generations effectively didn't have to let a single thought of a day's work trouble their pampered brows.

Times have however changed and Ed, exiled in France for five years for tax reasons after his father's death, returns to find the estate effectively bankrupt. His father had basically spent all the money over the years, and Ed- although continually warned during his time in France by the estate manager of its perilous situation- had remained resolutely ignorant of it all by a lifelong commitment to never opening letters and, if he did, generally losing interest in their contents after the first few lines. Admirable as this louche attitude to correspondence may be, it had left him in a bit of a fix so far as his inheritance was concerned.

What follows on his return however is an encounter with a rather banal, stereotypical cast of characters. There's Annabel, a contemporaneous, batty thirty-something woman friend with the equally stereotypical, crazed retired Army colonel father she has to look after, and who has of course romantic designs on Ed which he has no inclination to return. Then there is the brusque estate manager who is in cahoots with the brash, `new money' property developer who is also Annabel's boyfriend and, who- in true post-Thatcher neoliberal fashion- turns over his business on a knife edge by juggling huge levels of debt and, as such, actually hasn't any real assets at all, and who sees the now bankrupt Hartlepool Hall as a veritable conversion cash cow full of potential executive apartments. Bringing up the rear there is also the predictable cast of support actors- the doddery, eighty-something butler, the honest-to-goodness cook, the salt-of-the-earth estate tenants- they fill the book so completely and with such predictable shape and actions that you soon feel as if you are firmly amongst old familiar literary friends.

It has to be said that it is to Torday's credit that these characters are well written enough for you not to throw the book away in boredom at the predictability of it all, but it does add inexorably to the overall feeling that it is a story that we've all read [and seen on the screen] many times before.

Anyway the `wildcard' in the cast is Alice; an enigmatic older woman who Ed, on his return from France, finds shacked up in the Hall. As he gets to know her better, she does add an interesting dimension to the tale that if again not exactly original in its nature, remains central to it all and provides some much needed substance to the proceedings.

Strangely enough though to my mind it is Ed, the dreamy old fashioned aristocrat now well and truly out of time and place at the beginning of the 21st century, who is the most likable and interesting personality of the lot, and I for one would have liked to find out more about his inner workings. But this is not a book to go into such depths of character study; that's not a direct criticism, because not all successful books have to have a searching, literary depth of enquiry, it's just that Torday airbrushes over some interesting ideas just a bit too much, a bit too often. Which leads one to ask too many times, what is the novel trying to be? Is it trying to be easy-read, `disposable' contemporary fiction, or a more middle brow attempt to say something about the socio-economic state of the nation in 2012? If it is trying to be the latter- and at various points in the book the clear indications are that it is- then it doesn't do so with any real depth or flair. And so as such, it falls between too many stools, and instead of ticking too many boxes, ends up ticking none.

Which is all a bit of a shame really, considering how fine a writer Torday is- technically at least. The book though just failed to give an extra-dimension to the story it was telling and the ending- wrapped up in who Alice really is- can be seen a mile off.

I really, honestly wanted to get more out of this novel than at the end of the day it was, to be honest, capable of giving. In fact it is only in the last page and a half that an indication of how good this book could really have been is offered to us; a truly affecting sequence of passages that sounds like Torday actually writing from his heart, rather than satisfying the criteria of a wordcraft module in a writer's course. It merely in the end though, shows how lacklustre the vast bulk of the preceding work really is.

So, sadly, I put the book down after finishing it feeling neither intellectually stimulated, nor alternatively excited by a good old fashioned pulpy romp. In fact, I felt very little at all; it had all just seemed so hollow and well...pointless. What a shame.
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VINE VOICEon 11 December 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What a fabulous book! I haven't read anything by Paul Torday since Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and was reminded of it when I my dad read it recently. The following week I was exciting to find Torday's latest book on offer for review through Amazon Vine, and so selected it eagerly.

As I read The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall I remembered with fondness the style which includes the slight ecentricisity of Torday's characters but also of the plot.

This story was a real page turner as the charaters wound me into the story and I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next. With only 50 pages to go I could see somethings that were fitting into place, but couldn't say with any certainty how the loose ends were going to be tied up.

I'm going to go and get hold of Torday's other books now, as I've some catching up to do.

If you enjoyed Salmon Fishing, this is a very different story but still has the same easy going, slightly tongue in cheek style that you'll enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2014
As ever in Paul's books you can empathise with the main characters straight away and get sucked into their lives and problems. I think this is probably my favourite of all his books and I am devastated to realise that there won't be any more - after hearing of his recent death.
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