Ed Hartlepool has been living in self-imposed exile, but with a settlement regarding his inheritance looming, he must return to Hartlepool Hall. On his return, he discovers that his father has left him, along with the house, a 7 million tax bill, two massive overdrafts, an 80-year-old butler, and a country estate that is creaking at the seams."
The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall
Orion Publishing Group, Limited
1 Reader Reviews
thought-provoking, funny and entertaining.
“His father, Simon Aylmer Francis Simmonds, the fourth Marquess of Hartlepool … had given Ed only two pieces of advice. The first was that if the opening sentence of a letter wasn’t interesting, then the rest of it didn’t deserve attention; ...a letter from Horace, the butler at Hartlepool Hall … began with the intriguing sentence: ‘A Lady Alice Birtley has come to stay with us, and I do not recollect that your Lordship left any instructions in respect of her visit’”
The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall is the sixth novel by award-winning British author, Paul Torday. Ed Simmonds inherited Hartlepool Hall when his father died, but then had to spend five years “non-dom” in the south of France while the trustees came to terms with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. “Ed’s father has followed a long family tradition of leaving his affairs in a dreadful tangle. The wealth of the Simmonds family had been colossal; it had survived generations of mismanagement”
Now that agreement has been reached, Ed is coming home, but not to the life to which he is accustomed. Assets are to be liquidated, property sold off, and still an enormous debt hangs over his head. And as if this is not enough to deal with, the elderly Lady Alice, a complete stranger to Ed, seems to have taken up residence in Hartlepool Hall.
Annabel Gazebee has been friends with Ed for years; she had secretly hoped that he would see her as more than a that, and help her escape from her tyrannical father, Colonel Marcus Gazebee. But now she is going out with Geoff Tarset, a property developer of whom her father loudly and frequently voices his disapproval. Geoff is eager to meet Ed: he is certain that they can do a deal that will be to their mutual benefit.
Torday examines the fate of the stately home whose heir inherits debt and responsibility that far outstrip income, as well as exploring an option for saving these national treasures whose upkeep in their original state becomes an unwieldy burden. Torday has his (rather obnoxious) architect offer an opinion (that he plainly does not share): “…archaic planning laws make it far too difficult to get rid of our old building stock”.
Torday explores subjects both topical and eternal: class, duty to ageing parents, loneliness and depression, independence, self-sufficiency and the burden of inheritance: “Ed suddenly realised that he was terrified of his own future. He knew that his education and upbringing had given him a somewhat specialised range of skills…he hadn’t the least idea of how his affairs had become such a dreadful, tangled, unsolvable mess…a long time ago one or two of them had made a lot of money; since then there had been no conspicuous family talent apart from spending it”
Torday’s characters are eccentric and yet engaging, and don’t always behave as expected. His plot may seem predictable at first, but he throws in a few unexpected twists that keep it interesting. Torday said he trying to find the “ultimate novel” and wrote compulsively: each of his seven novels is a different genre: The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall can probably be described as comic tragedy, the comedy being very black. This edition also features Reading Group Notes which include an interesting Q&A with the author. Characters from previous novels play a role in this novel, as Torday’s characters tend to do. This is another brilliant novel by Paul Torday: thought-provoking, funny and entertaining.