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3.4 out of 5 stars169
3.4 out of 5 stars
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This is a coming-of-age novel, a story of war, love and loss, beautifully told, inspired by the author's visit to a country house and letters written by a cousin in 1939.

It is set in a country estate, Ashton Park in Yorkshire, the estate and its owners having been brought low by the First World War. Now, at the start of the Second World War in 1939, 8-year-old Anna Sands is evacuated here from London with 85 other children. Anna, intelligent and perceptive, is quickly drawn into the family by the Ashtons who have turned their estate into a school. Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton shape Anna's life.

The story is gripping from the start, with subtle observation and superb detailing, the writing highly visual. The author paints wonderful pictures of London and vividly communicates the feel of Ashton Park.

I count this among my favourite books and highly recommend it.
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on 28 March 2010
I found this book to be totally enthralling and thought provoking. A book that stays with you for some time after reading it.
It takes place during the Second World War and is essentially based around an evacuee who along with others is sent to a large house in the country. It follows her story as well as her Parents and the couple who take her in.
I thought that all the characters were well developed and believable, they were not simply good or bad but people who found themselves in situations that they were unable control or cope with.
The description of the little girl and her Mother shopping together before her departure was particularly heart rending but in a most unsentimental way.
This book also tackles the effects of polio, a disease that we have all but forgotten about but which had devastating effects on both its victims and their families.
All in all an absorbing read and one which I found difficult to put down.
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VINE VOICEon 20 December 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I agree so much with a couple of the other reviewers who refer to the writing as flat, or lacklustre. While the prose is very well crafted in places, the book as a whole is rather unsatisfying. None of the characters really engage you. The narrative keeps jumping from one person to another, then suddenly speeds up towards the end, so characters age from one page to the next. As commented on by another reviewer, there are some incidente which are drawn out to the edges of tedium (the build-up to the love affair between Ruth and Thomas, for example) while other major events are dealt with in a single abrupt paragraph. In her author's notes at the end, Rosie Alison refers to a visit to a house in Cornwall as the starting point for this book. Why then, was it set in Yorkshire, and in a Yorkshire which we never got to see or experience in any way? I just found the book very oddly put together, and felt frustrated with the author, because some of the passages were very well done, it just didn't work as a whole. Also, I was unconvinced by the relationship between Anna and Thomas - what was that about, it seemed a tad creepy?

Not one to keep, I'm afraid, or even pass onto a friend.
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on 8 April 2010
I wanted to like this book and enjoyed it enough to finish it. It's not badly written. The author tries to strike a wistful tone but her prose is a little flat and lifeless and I would have welcomed a change of tone to keep my interest. As other reviewers have commented it's a more tell than show. There wasn't a lot of plot development, some of the sub plots were dead ends and there was no point whatsoever in the inclusion of Sir Clifford Norton and his wife Peter who seem to have been thrown into the mix purely to show off the writer's illustrious relatives. They add nothing to the story and appear to belong in a different book altogether.

I do feel a bit guilty giving it three stars - the same rating I have just given to a much trashier book, but there was too much unfulfilled promise here. I wish she had sat on it for a year and then looked at it more dispassionately. It could have been a much better book than it is. I might look out for her next one but I hope it will have a little more fire.
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on 13 May 2010
This is a moving book written with great clarity in a pleasantly straightforward style from the persective of a traditional omniscient narrator. The centre of the story, if not the central character, is Thomas Ashton, a wheelchair-bound former diplomat around whom spin several female characters and their lovers. All have slightly different views and experiences of love. Most of the action takes place during the Second World War, when Ashton's stately family home in Yorkshire is turned into a boarding school for London evacuees. The atmosphere of the era and the setting is evocative and believable.

If I had one criticism of the book it would be that the final section compresses too tightly the long period from the wartime events to the final denouement, and I would have enjoyed hearing more about the character on whom this part of the book focusses. That comment, though, is really praise for the book's intelligence and sensitivity because it is very rare indeed that I find a modern novel too short.
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on 21 January 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've never read a Rosie Alison before, but this certainly won't be my last. I started the novel at 10pm on Sunday night and finished it at 3am on Tuesday. It frequently sat on the dining table with me at mealtimes, tragically enough.

I won't go into the plot, it's detailed from the publisher, and I don't want to accidentally include any spoilers, but I will say that Rosie Alison manages to magically capture the era and create an atmosphere and poignancy that is totally absorbing. Just read the first 3 pages, and I challenge you to willingly put it down. The author's style is warm and engaging, the characters are multi-dimensional and fascinating, and the pacing never flags. You'll put this down with a real sadness that you're losing a friend. But I have every intention of reading it again very soon. Enjoy!
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on 20 June 2009
This is a delicately, passionately,honest and beautifully told story set in World War II. Anna is a young girl from London sent to the Yorkshire countryside to escape the Blitz. She resides in the huge home of Thomas Ashton and his wife who have converted their home into a school. Anna is a sweet, gentle serious girl who is drawn into the lives of the Ashtons. Elizabeth Ashton it unable to bear children and is bitter, resentful and deeply unhappy in her life and marriage (resulting in affairs and betrayal). Thomas Ashton is wheel chair bound due to Polio, a kind, gentle and studious man who falls in love with the quiet teacher, Ruth Weir.
The story is told in such a way that the reader is drawn into the characters lives and it really was a joy to read this short but sweet novel. This book is quite unlike many novels set in war time England as it doesnt focus on the physical, political aspects of the time but on the people who just happened to live during this period of history and how it subtly affects their lives and stories.
I loved this story and would highly recommend it to others who love a good read - and a good love story!
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The story starts in 1939 with Anna being evacuated from London to Yorkshire. It then follows the life of Anna from 1939 to 2006. However it is not just the story of Anna, it is the story of Thomas Ashton and his wife Elizabeth (who own and run the school). One of the teachers Ruth. The mother and father of Anna. You have to stay alert because in the same chapter the story may be being told from several different people. That is not an easy thing to do without losing the reader. In this story it works well.

The story is charming. It is sad, it is happy. It is really well written. This appears to be the first novel of a new author. I enjoyed this book very much and will be looking out for future releases.
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on 18 July 2011
I find it hard to believe that this was longlisted for the Orange Prize alongside Wolf Hall! And that it is mentioned in the same breath as LP Hartley's exquisite novel The Go-Between. Rosie Alison seems to think that a literary novel is achieved by strings of adjectives.
For once I'd say, do judge this book by the cover. It looks like lowbrow, mass market women's reading ... and that's exactly what it is. Unconvincing characters. Derivative. Silly ending.
In fairness, it's a first novel by a writer who would have benefited from the guiding hand of a much better editor.
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VINE VOICEon 16 December 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Very Thought of You is set during the Second World War following the journey of Anna as she is evacuated from London to Yorkshire. Opening up with Ashton House as it's handed over to the National Trust it introduces the family that Anna would stay with during her evacuation but with the peaceful death of one visitor, encapsulates what the house will become. From a once strong family history, these ghosts are slowly forgotten and we are transported back in time to the beginning of the war introducing Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, their history and how they cope with a house full of evacuated children.

Anna, although very young when we meet her is the perfect main character. Her love for her mother Roberta is endearing but it's her inquisitive nature which keeps the story moving on her great adventure to and during her stay Ashton House. It's very easy to sympathise with her as although at times she can seem very confident, she is a loner and doesn't interact much with the other children she is staying with. Instead she plays an important role introducing the Ashton's and parts of their private lives which weave the characters together.

Thomas and Elizabeth play large roles in the book as they invite the evacuated children into their home setting up a school. Elizabeth was a jealous and manipulative character who was very hard to sympathise with through much of the book but it was Thomas I fell in love with. This is his family and being married to Elizabeth and everything he has to put up with from her made me feel more for him. The author delves deeply into his life and gives a great understanding of the man he is during his war and his disability leading to the love he has and everything he loses.

Unfortunately the book comes to a standstill around one third of the way through. Anna still wonders when she'll be able to go home, Roberta still misses her daughter and husband and Elizabeth and Thomas reminisce about their pasts. At this point although I still enjoyed reading about the Ashton's family history, other than knowing this is the end of the family line for them and maybe wondering if Anna would return to her family there was nothing significant to make this a page turner. When we catch up with Roberta I began to wonder if there was even a war on as she remarks that London hasn't been affected by it.

It was only with 100 pages to go that the book becomes a page turner again and the story started moving. I know I was holding back tears at one point.

When I was about half way through my opinion would just have been that this was a nice story with a couple of more shocking moments and story flowing well but plodding along. I'm so glad I stuck with it though because the ending really did change my opinion. Roberta's chapters became very refreshing with a change of setting and actually hearing about the war. Anna's story was heartbreaking and the book did make me think about the history of properties like Ashton House. I really would recommend this as long as you're prepared to stick out the slower parts.
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