Category Archives: British Authors

The Book Whisperer Discovers a Lovely Debut Novel

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When I finish a book, I usually head to the computer (I still like working at my desk top despite having a small laptop) to write out and share my thoughts about the book. September 5, 2019, I finished reading Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior. For some reason, I did not immediately write my review. I am correcting that oversight now because I truly enjoyed the book.

Hazel Prior, https://www.hazeltheharpist.co.uk/, has been playing the harp for a long time. She has performed at the Ferrara Music Festival in Italy, at the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol, poetry readings, and Medieval banquets. And she has played the harp at a number of weddings including her own. On her Web site, Prior gives several examples of her harp skills: https://www.hazeltheharpist.co.uk/blank-cjg9.

Ellie and the Harp Maker is a debut novel; Prior is already at work on her second book and has also written short stories, poems, and children’s stories. Her writing is warm and inviting. She creates characters that readers care about and wish to see successful in their endeavors. In Ellie and the Harp Maker, the story plays out simply, unfolding slowly as readers come to know Dan Hollis, the harp maker, and Ellie, the Exmoor housewife.

On Hazel Prior’s Web site, readers will see this proclamation about Ellie and the Harp Maker:

”This heart-warming, funny and quirky love story features . . .

86 plums

69 sandwiches

27 birch trees

a 17-step staircase


a pair of cherry-coloured socks

and a pheasant named Phineas.”

After reading that description, how could I not wish to read the book?

The story begins simply enough when Ellie, the Exmoor housewife, takes an impulsive trip down a wooded lane and discovers a barn where Dan Hollis makes Celtic harps. Dan most likely has Asperger’s; he says of himself that he does not always understand social situations. He prefers working on his harps in the solitude of his barn where he can let the wood tell him how to make the harp.

When Ellie finds the barn, she goes in and views the beautiful harps all over the barn, some completed and others Dan is still working on. As she admires the harps, Ellie tells Dan she wishes she could play the harp, a goal before she turns forty.

Dan admires Ellie’s bright, cherry-colored socks, so he gives her a harp of cherry wood. At first, Ellie protests and tells Dan she cannot possibly accept the harp as a gift. Dan insists that she take the harp and helps her load it into the back of her car with a blanket to cushion it for the trip to her home.

Once she is at home, Ellie still feels she should not accept the harp and her husband echoes that sentiment insisting that she return it. Her husband is sure Ellie misunderstood Dan and tells her they cannot afford to pay for the harp or harp lessons.

Sadly, Ellie returns the harp to Dan who tells her the harp belongs to her, Ellie, the Exmoor housewife. He assures her he will keep the harp in a little room up the seventeen stairs to his living quarters and that she can come there to play. He even tells her of a harp teacher, his girlfriend, who will teach Ellie.

Dan’s gift of the cherry wood harp to Ellie marks the beginning of a friendship between the two. The story is heartwarming and full of kindness. Oh, yes, there is strife and discord which we hope will be resolved. To discover the warmth of a kind soul and an act of generosity that turns into a friendship and more, read Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior.

Ellie and the Harp Maker would make a delightful choice for a book talk for Books Sandwiched In with a harpist who could talk about the book and play the harp!