Larkswood House. The very name suggests birdsong, peace and elegance. It is home to the Hamilton children – Edward, Cynthia and Harriet – who enjoy the freedom and excitement of privilege. But in the glorious summer of 1896, with absent parents and a departed governess, disaster strikes the Hampshire family, leaving it cruelly divided.

More than forty years later, on the eve of the Second World War, Louisa Hamilton, newly presented at Court but struck down by glandular fever, travels to Larkswood to recuperate. There for the first time she meets Edward, her grandfather. Reluctantly home from India and haunted by terrible memories, the arrival of his granddaughter gladdens Edward’s heart.

Louisa falls in love – both with Larkswood and its young gardener, Thomas Saunders. Intrigued by a mysterious attic room, she and Thomas investigate its contents, but an old family portrait poses more questions than it answers.

To prevent Edward from sailing back to India, and to delay her own return to London, Louisa conceives a plan to build a sanatorium in Larkswood’s gardens, little realising what the consequences will be. A fire in the newly-cleared woods leads to a startling discovery, which threatens to destroy Louisa’s love for Thomas – and to uncover the secrets of Edward’s past. Will Louisa find the courage to follow a thread of clues that lead her to the dark heart of Larkswood before the Second World War begins its deadly work?

From Sam Mendes CBE:

“I have re-read Larkswood, and wanted to say I enjoyed it even more the second time than the first. I was genuinely touched by it – by the end you really care about them all. The characters are terrifically well drawn – especially Edward – and it has a powerful atmosphere that lingers long after it ends. You should be tremendously proud of it. It’s a really wonderful achievement.”

Private email to his fond Mama

Published by Orion in 2014. Now available in mass market paperback. Also in e-book and unabridged audio download.