Originally published: 25 May 2023
Author: Lucy Atkins
Published by: Quercus
Length: 368 pages
Reading dates: 19-24 May 2023
One night in a remote hunting lodge with a Hollywood director causes an international scandal that wrecks Astrid’s glittering stage career, and her marriage. Her ex-husband, the charismatic Scottish actor Magnus Fellowes, goes on to find global fame, while Astrid retreats to a disintegrating Sussex windmill.
Now 82, she lives there still, with a troupe of dachshunds and her long-suffering friend, Mrs Baker, who came to clean twenty years ago and never left. But the past is catching up with them. There has been an ‘Awful Incident’ at the windmill; the women are in shock. Then Astrid hears that Magnus, now on his death bed, is writing a tell-all memoir. Outraged, she sets off for Scotland, determined to stop him.
Windmill Hill is the story of two very different women, both with painful pasts, and their eccentric friendship – deep, enduring, and loyal to the last.
I read and loved Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins back in 2020 so was thrilled to be offered a chance to read Windmill Hill, which tells the story of Astrid, a retired stage actress in her 80s who lives in a cottage attached to a dilapidated windmill in Sussex. She lives with Mrs Baker, an elderly lady (but not as old as Astrid) who came to clean the cottage several years ago and never left. Astrid’s ex-husband Magnus (a very famous actor) is writing his memoir on his death bed and Astrid is incensed at what he might say about her. We know there was a scandal for which Astrid was made to take the blame and she retired from acting, choosing to live with her dogs in the windmill away from the spotlight
The book is told from Astrid’s point of view as she decides to journey to Scotland to confront Magnus and demand she isn’t included in his book. She thinks back over her life but her thoughts are often a bit confused – she has a broken arm after a fall, is in pain and often feels light headed and ill but is determined to fly from Gatwick.
The windmill in the book is inspired by the Jack windmill in East Sussex and it was fascinating to learn more about windmills – there is a handy diagram in the front of the book which shows the different levels and inner workings. I love how Astrid invented a pulley system in order to get her dogs up and down the windmill, their legs being too short for the stairs.
I really enjoyed this story – I loved the relationship between Astrid and Mrs Baker – two quite grumpy older ladies living together who greatly care for each other, despite appearances. I really liked how the the past of both women is revealed gradually.
A literary character-driven story with a fabulous setting that despite having themes of domestic abuse, was heart-warming. Wonderful!
Thank you to Ella at Quercus for my gifted copy for review as part of the blog blast.
About the author:
Lucy Atkins is an award-winning author, Sunday Times book critic and journalist. Her new novel, Magpie Lane, is a literary thriller narrated by the nanny of a missing girl, and set in an Oxford College. Her other novels are The Night Visitor, The Other Child and The Missing One.
Lucy reviews books for The Sunday Times and has written for newspapers such as The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, the T.L.S, and many magazines. She has also written several non fiction books, including the Amazon #1 parenting bestseller, First-Time Parent (Collins, 2008). She lives in Oxford with her family.
Excellent review, Clair. I’m glad you enjoyed this – very much looking forward to this after reading three of Lucy’s other books. Plus I got to meet her last weekend and bought a signed copy!
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Oh that is brilliant! Enjoy!
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