Member Reviews

<em>Ellie and the Harpmaker</em> is a sweet, lovely debut novel that crept up on me and then completely entranced me! Such a magical and deceptively simple tale.

Told through alternating chapters, we get to see the world through Dan and Ellie's eyes. Dan is unusual, to say the least. He loves his solitude, the peace of Exmoor, the woods and streams and pebbles all around him, and most of all, the hand-carved harps that are his passion and his livelihood. He view the world and understands interactions completely literally -- he's presented here as someone who appears to be somewhere on the Asperger's spectrum, although this is never actually stated. He functions well, but lacks the ability to interpret many of the social constructs and behaviors that others take for granted.
<blockquote>A woman came to the barn today. Her hair was the color of walnut wood. Her eyes were the color of bracken in October. Her socks were the color of cherries, which was noticeable because the rest of her clothes were sad colors.</blockquote>
Ellie is an unfulfilled housewife in her 30s, a woman whose father's death has prompted her to make a list of things to do before she's 40 -- and one of these is to learn to play music. When she happens upon the Harp Barn, she's astonished by Dan's workmanship and the beauty of his harps, and is intrigued by Dan himself. Dan insists on gifting her with a harp, but Ellie's husband Clive forces her to return it, believing that she misunderstands Dan's intentions. But Dan then insists that the harp is and always will be Ellie's, and tells her he'll keep it for her, for her to play whenever she wants.
<blockquote>It was her harp, and always would be. I never took back a gift. The harp would sit here in my barn and wait for her. It would sit and wait until all the cows had come home. This did not sound like a very long time, so I made it longer. The harp would wait, I told her, until the sea dried up (which someday it would if you gave it long enough) and the stars dropped out of the sky (which someday they would if you gave them long enough), but nevertheless this harp would never, ever belong to anyone else.</blockquote>
Thus begins a warm and unusual friendship between two people whose paths would likely have never crossed. Each adds to the other's life. As Ellie gets to know Dan better, she digs into his world and his assumptions about the people in it, opening his eyes to new and different aspects of his life that he'd never realized before.

(Being vague here... no spoilers!)

Although the book started slowly for me, I was soon swept away by the lovely writing and the wonderful characters. At first, I was afraid that <em>Ellie and the Harpmaker</em> would feel too much like a clone of <em>The Rosie Project</em> and other recent reads about people who present with social difficulties and/or on the spectrum. Not so. Very quickly <em>Ellie and the Harpmaker</em> won my heart in its own way, erasing thoughts of comparisons to other books from my mind.
<blockquote>Sometimes the ifs work for you and sometimes they work against you. Sometimes you think they are working for you whereas in fact they are working against you, and sometimes you think they are working against you whereas in fact they are working for you. It is only when you look back that you realize, and you don't always realize even then.</blockquote>
I grew to love Dan and Ellie, and felt all the feels as I read about their journeys, alone and together. Ellie's marriage is frustrating to read about and I wanted to give her a good shake, but she becomes more self-aware as the book progresses, and I was proud of her for the realizations she finds along the way. Dan is simply lovely -- a giving, creative, uncomplicated person who only knows how to be good. He's really marvelous, and someone I won't soon forget.

Please do yourself a favor and read this book! <em>Ellie and the Harpmaker</em> is a delicious read that left me hungry for beautiful music and a forest to wander through.

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Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley Publishing for my advance reader copy of Ellie and the Harpmaker in exchange for my honest review.

Ellie is an Exmoor housewife who finds herself inside the barn of the Exmoor harpmaker, Dan.  She falls in love with the harp and Dan ends up giving her one as a gift.  What?!  I know...crazy!  Ellie takes it home and is immediately told to return it by her husband.  She ends up leaving it at his barn and comes back to visit it to practice and take harp lessons from his girlfriend.

Some things to note...Ellie's husband is a drunk, Dan cannot read social cues and is not of the societal norm, and Ellie is in love...with the harp.  I wouldn't classify this book as a romance as there is nothing all that romantic about it.  This takes on a tale of everything that happens BEFORE a romance blossoms.

The book is told to us by Dan and Ellie.  There are parts in this book where I am yelling at Ellie because this woman...oh, she gave me heartburn.  If I were her friend Christina I'd be yelling at her.  I felt nothing but compassion for Dan.  Oh how I wanted to hug him and take him home with me, haha.  I felt really bad for him towards the last part of the'll see why when you pick it up (and then even MORE at the end).

Ellie is such an amazing friend to Dan.  I think my favorite part of reading this book was watching how she treated Dan.  She almost became like his protector until everything went falling by the wayside.  This book was beautifully written.  It has an Eleanor Oliphant vibe to it as well. 

Overall, 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I now have a craving for coffee and sandwiches...pick up the book and you'll see why! ;)

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"The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down." (Proverbs 14:1 ESV) Ellie, Ellie, Ellie. When you made the decision to keep your harp lessons from your husband, you began the unraveling of your marriage vows. You made vows to Clive. Dan is a lovely man, but he is a neighbor. He is on the spectrum and his perspective is refreshing and uncomplicated. His chapters were my favorites. I liked about 60% of this book. The writing was good. The overall plot, though, is manipulating the reader to cheer for Ellie and Dan to be a couple and she already has a husband -- no matter how Clive is written, Ellie has a responsibility in the way things progressed once she kept that harp as her own.

Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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What a surprise! I had no idea I would like this book so much. It's a simple plot -- a woman who is not-so-satisfied with her life & her husband meets an unusual man who makes beautiful harps in his barn. The strike up an unusual friendship (fall in love?) and (of course) things don't go smoothly especially once her husband finds out about her lies. Told in alternating chapters from Ellie's and Dan's point of view.

HIdden within this simple, almost predictable, plot are some beautiful moments. There are some wonderful passages about the natural setting, the nature of wood, and the power of music. But most endearing is Dann himself. Clearly he is someone with developmental & social difficulties (possibly Asperger's or Autism-- although never mentioned outright), Dan knows his limitations but plays to his strengths -- his creativity, his kindness, his trusting personality, his love of the natural world. It's very clear why Ellie falls for him.

I loved this simple, touching romance that's never sappy or overly melodramatic. When the pivotal moment occurs, I couldn't help being touched by emotion and rooting for Ellie & Dan to triumph. Loved it!

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3.5 stars rounded up.
I can’t think of any other way to describe this other than what sounds cliche - a sweet, charming story with characters I loved, but that is precisely what it is. Dan, the harp maker, a little quirky from the beginning, reminds me of Don Tillman from the Rosie Project and subsequent books in that series, and Ellie, the housewife- there’s something sad and lovely about her. Predictable from the beginning, but a few things happened here that I was not expecting. Dan, not quite a recluse, makes beautiful harps and Ellie who fills her time with walks in this beautiful setting in the countryside of Exmoor, England comes upon the barn where Dan works and lives. After their brief meeting, Dan gives Ellie one of his harps. This lovely act of generosity sets in motion a secret kept from Ellie’s domineering husband, her harp playing and friendship with Dan. Of course secrets kept are only kept for a while and when divulged Ellie’s life is changed in ways she didn’t imagine. Another secret kept by Dan’s former girlfriend and Ellie’s harp teacher changes Dan’s life forever when it is out in the open. I’m not a big reader of romance and I suppose this could be categorized as that, but this was really a lovely, uplifting story and I need one of those once in a while. I have to round up to 4 stars because Dan and Ellie are characters that I will remember.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Berkeley through Netgalley.

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What a sweet romance story! We've got Ellie, who is in an unhappy marriage (to a real jerk). She stumbles upon the Harp Barn and Dan, the harpmaker. He is most likely non-neurotypical, and I've been reading a lot of books with this type of character recently.

It's a bit predictable, but there are a few twists and turns. All in all, something light and fluffy, which was what I needed after a heavy book.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.

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I'll begin by acknowledging that I began this book with the wrong set of expectations. I'm not sure why I was expecting something more atmospheric, with a quiet lyricism in its writing style. Instead I felt more like I'd picked up a quirkier version of Bridget Jones' diary. Having read both the netgalley and goodreads summaries now, I do think the GoodReads summary would have prepared me a bit better for what it was.

Ellie and the Harpmaker is a dual-perspective story told by the titular character, Ellie, a discontented housewife, and Dan, a harpmaker. The two meet in Dan's workshop, he gives her a harp, and complications unfold as a result of that generous gift.

This review has taken me far too long to write mainly because I don't think I have much to say. I think I was meant to read this as a cute, quirky romance book but the humor didn't connect with me, the plot contained one or two contrivances that felt like they were carefully placed to increase the drama, and many of the supporting characters were a little too close to archetype. Also, I should add that imagery was not so much interwoven into the story as placed when the author was trying to make a point about Ellie's poetry or how Dan enjoyed nature.

I struggled a lot with Ellie's character and her arc. It was painful to read passages of her husband dismissing and demoralizing her, to read her internalizing this view of herself as useless, to watch her carefully managing the emotions of her spouse. Furthermore, though the book was largely focused on Ellie and how she changes, how Dan enables her to change, her moment of realizing her inner strength is basically a sentence. We got only the briefest moment of a very limited sort of self-reflection from her then off to tie up the romance arc nice and neat.

Dan was my favorite part of this book. I think I would have preferred spending more time with his perspective and exploring his life. We get so much time in Ellie's head, sorting through her issues that Dan sometimes feels less like the other lead of the story. Even the major life changes in his arc are more directly due to Ellie's actions. Though it is not said outright, Dan's mannerisms suggest he is an autistic person/is a person with autism. I cannot speak to the representation of autism in the book and would be interested in reading reviews written by an #ownvoices reviewer.

I'm very sorry not to have liked it more, but judging from the other reviews the author has still found her audience!

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What a delightful novel! The voicing was fresh, well-defined, and sympathetic. I was immediately taken with both of the leads and their passions and struggles. The villains were, unfortunately, true to life and believable. The wonderful description of the setting allowed it to become a character in its own right giving a rich flavor to the entire novel. While beginning the book, I thought I had all the twists and turns figured out in advance. However, except for the obvious catastrophe, the twists and turns were completely unexpected. Overall, an enthusiastic thumbs up!

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Such a sweet, quirky, tug at your heartstrings tale about finding love when you’re not looking. There were some surprising twists in the story. It was reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant

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A bit formulaic but at least had a lovely setting and subject matter. Ellie wasn't the easiest to connect with as her decisions were just so hard to swallow, but Dan was pretty darn adorable.

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This is a wonderful book and will be very easy to "hand-sell" to my patrons.
Ellie and Dan have unique voices and immediately draw you into their stories. Because they are telling their own versions and stories of themselves, no one gets "labeled" as either "on the spectrum" or "depressed" or "insecure." The descriptions of Exmoor are wonderful. Just reading about Dan's walks is relaxing. The secondary characters are not fully developed, but that is because of the two narrators. Because the author has so much experience with the background of the characters, I worry she won't have another book to write. I hope she does.

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I received an electronic ARC from Berkley Publishing Group through NetGalley.
2.5 star rating bumped up.
The book is told in alternating perspectives from its two main characters - Dan and Ellie. Dan is a craftsman who makes harps and also happens to be on the spectrum Refreshing, to see this treated as simply part of the overall story rather than the main focal point. Ellie is an unhappily married woman who battles low self-esteem and lives with an emotionally and verbally abusive husband.
The plot follows a romance formula but adds some interesting twists (no spoilers) from the secondary characters.
My lower rating comes from the painfully slow story pace and the disconnects and leaps in the plotline. Some incredible coincidences are needed to move toward the climax. It feels like Prior tried to add one twist too many.
I do appreciate the distinct voices and styles for the narrators. Readers can easily identify who is telling the tale and how they're interacting with the environment around them.

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Ellie meets Dan, a harp maker who is on the autistic spectrum. He gifts her a harp and this is the beginning of a friendship that reveals hidden truths.

This book was okay for me. There characters were okay. The story was okay.

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This is a book that I have mixed feelings about. I thought that the writing was beautiful and I adored Dan as a character. I also appreciated the descriptions of the harps and the focus on music. Phineas the pheasant was also a highlight!

I think my main grip was with Ellie. While on some level I understood her choices, they still frustrated me. This is a personal thing but I struggle to read stories that involve cheating, even if it is just emotional. I don't find it romantic! I always wonder if the character truly loves the love interest or if they are just using them to escape their current situation.


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What a lovely, surprising and musical tale. This is a love story not just between two lonely creative souls finding each other and the power of unexpected family, but a love story of nature and art in all of its elusive forms.

Ellie wants so much more than to be Clive's wife. She wants to write poetry and find words to describe the beautiful Exmoor Country around her. She wants to reconcile her future with the loss of her father and her mother's memory the same by finding something that will open her heart. Clive, of the skimped paycheques, beer consumption and football has little in common with a woman who wants to carve a corner of the world for herself.

When Ellie meets harpmaker Dan-- she finds something in the smell and poetry of his wood shop that whittles the slopes, curves and designs of harps into something beautiful and enigmatic. Dan, notices her socks--her hair--- her openness and offers her sandwiches-- and a harp of her own.

But a harp is too extravagant a gift and something Clive--pragmatic and suspicious Clive--could never comprehend. Because he doesn't understand it, it cannot happen and Ellie's harp is sent back to live at Dan's. Until Ellie begins to visit it and learns how to play...

I am always hankering after gorgeous prose-- which this novel has in spades--- but also in the lyricism of author's passion projects. It is so very clear that Prior worships the art of harp-making and also the unique, angelic sound conjured from fingertips on strings. This is an anthem to wistful music, to innocent souls, to simplistic moments. Though tragedy looms and misunderstandings undercut wholesome intentions, Ellie and the Harpmaker never wanders in to unnecessary dramatics. It keeps to its poetic cadence and light: a soft character piece unraveling with the gentle meter of music.

There is a little boy named Ed and a pheasant named Phineas and all manner of sandwiches and stolen moments under the trees that loan their wood to the malleability of Dan's skill.

And there is Dan--of which any dreamer who loves to count and make coffee for the smell rather than the consumption and who can remember so many things while forgetting even the most simple constructs of human interaction will settle in close-- will adore.

This is an escapist read with themes of redemption, recovered art and holding on to evasive dreams.

Quiet, stirring and ultimately soul-hugging, Ellie and the Harpmaker woos you with words and keeps strong hold until the characters are friends and you're not sure if your tears are because of something happy or melancholy, found or lost--- or perhaps both at once.

With thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

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I was looking forward to reading this, but after starting it, I didn’t think I could stay in Ellie’s head for the length of a book. Dan seemed very sweet, and if it had been all from his point of view, I might have stayed with it. A few scenes with Clive and reading a spoiler of something that happens later in the book decided it for me. I made it to the 9% mark on my kindle.

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The book is written in a 2 person Point of View. Each Chapter is devoted to either Ellie's view point or Dan's. Dan is the Harpmaker and has idiosyncrasies. Ellie changes as she learns to play the harp. This book touches on several relationships in the book and would be enjoyed by people who have enjoyed other books with Asperger characters

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Thank you Netgalley for the ARC Copy.
In the rolling hills of beautiful Exmoor, there’s a barn. And in that barn, you’ll find Dan. He’s a maker of exquisite harps - but not a great maker of conversation. He’s content in his own company, quietly working and away from social situations that he doesn’t always get right.

But one day, a cherry-socked woman stumbles across his barn and the conversation flows a little more easily than usual. She says her name’s Ellie, a housewife, alone, out on her daily walk and, though she doesn’t say this, she looks sad. He wants to make her feel better, so he gives her one of his harps, made of cherry wood.

And before they know it, this simple act of kindness puts them on the path to friendship, big secrets, pet pheasants and, most importantly, true love.
I loved this book some much. You become so invested in Ellie and Dan's friendship. A great read.

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What a beautifully descriptive and poetic story. I would love to see the world as the main characters see the simplicity and intricacies of nature.

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Sweet and tender characters, this book has an almost fairy tale feel but the characters have enough depth to keep you interested. This is a book that makes you realize that the simple things in life are what matters.

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