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Set mostly in the summer of 1969, 'Marlford' focuses on twenty-year-old Ellie Barton, who has grown up motherless in the old rambling manor house she shares with her elderly father, Ernest. The family money has long since disappeared and the Bartons are now practically penniless, finding it almost impossible to keep the old house from falling down around them. Ellie has experienced a very sheltered upbringing - virtually the only people she comes into contact with are her father, a neighbour named Oscar Quersley, with whom she helps to run the Marlford Library, and three elderly men who live in hutments on the estate. In fact from the very beginning of this story we realize that Ellie leads a rather strange life, controlled not just by her father, but also by Oscar Quersley and, to a certain extent, the three eccentric characters from the hutments. The Bartons have no television or radio and Ellie knows almost nothing about what is happening in the outside world - not even the imminent Apollo 11 moon landing; she has no friends or boyfriends and we learn that her infant sisters died under rather suspicious circumstances. (No spoilers, we learn all of this and more early on in the novel). One evening, two young travellers, Dan and Gadiel, arrive on the drive of the Barton home with a broken-down van and are invited in for supper - however, when they set up a squat in a disused wing of the manor house and, attracted by Ellie's air of unworldliness, they become more friendly with her than either her father or Oscar think is appropriate, a whole series of events are set in motion with some rather surprising results.

To be honest I found Jacqueline Yallop's third novel a little difficult to rate fairly - it is well-written and contains some good descriptive passages and Ellie's feyness and feelings of dislocation were well-depicted; however, I found some of the characters rather thinly sketched and even Ellie remained an elusive individual who seemed insufficiently affected by what was happening around her, which made it difficult to become as involved in her situation or to really care about her as much as I would have liked. Also the narrative became less convincing as the story progressed, but I cannot explain further without revealing spoilers. That said, there is some good writing here and I would like to add that I found the author's second novel:Obedience an interesting read, so perhaps I was a little disappointed to find that this particular novel didn't impress me as much as the author's previous work.
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on 19 August 2014
Jaqueline Yallop writes beautifully. Her prose is evocative, intelligent and thought provoking. I found Marlford, her third novel, dark and compelling, with a vivid sense of time and place which I suspect comes from thorough research as well as strong writing ability. She both knows her stuff and is able to convey it convincingly.

Whilst the stories in her first two novels, Kissing Alice and Obedience, unfurl over generations, the action in Marlford spans just a few weeks. This limited time frame, combined with Ellie’s extremely sheltered, isolated and old fashioned life, lend a feverish intensity to her contact with two students who stumble into her life – an intensity which goes beyond the usual sexual tension among young adults. Yet despite the narrative taking place in a couple of weeks, family history and destiny weigh heavily on the story as it gathers pace towards an inevitable collision of times and attitudes – of Ellie’s life at Marlford, rooted in protection of the past, and the students’ world view, firmly oriented towards the future. I thought that the inclusion of the 1969 moon landings provided the perfect backdrop for this collision and for the accompanying challenge of all that Ellie’s family stand for. But I really liked the fact that the novel didn’t make this a simplistic new-old-good-bad choice. The issues raised are far more subtle and ambiguous ones of loyalty, protection, freedom and destiny. This is what I really admire and appreciate in Yallop’s writing – she doesn’t bash you over the head with her themes and thoughts. She sets up the issues but leaves you to draw your own conclusions.
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on 21 August 2014
For me Jacqueline Yallop is definitely an author to follow. In her earlier books, Kissing Alice and Obedience, Yallop posed serious questions about morality, the slippery dividing, or overlapping, line between good and bad, and about honesty, guilt and revenge. Most authors can't resist giving us their answers to these questions but Yallop unerringly points us to the moral dilemmas in life, then leaves us alone to consider our own morale code and our own answers. Her questions linger long after the book has been read. She continues this relationship with her readers to good effect in Marlford. I don't want to spoil the finale of this book but just say that it could end in several different ways but Yallop's is the most compelling and satisfying. The plot and the central character, Ellie, have been outlined by other reviewers so I am not going to repeat what has already been said, but just reiterate this is definitely an author to look out for.
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on 30 November 2015
I found a copy of this book at the Wigtown book festival, left by the author. I had nothing to lose by reading it and found myself sucked into the story. I liked unusual situation in which the heroine Ellie found herself and the way the story unfolded. A good read.
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on 25 April 2014
A good read and holds the readers attention to the end but somehow lacks the excitement of contemporary writers. Not quite the 'ghost story' read that i expected from the review in 'The Mail on Sunday' review.
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on 10 August 2014
What mental age was this story pitched for? Surely not adults? How it came to be on the Booker long list is astonishing....very thin in content, completely unconvincing characterisation and a poor attempt at mystery + suspense. I rather hoped the lot of them would burnt down with the building. A waste of my time and money.
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on 2 July 2014
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