(4 customer reviews)
Publication Date: Aug. 28, 2020
Categories: HistoricalISBN: 9781913208752
Castignac, a beautiful farmhouse in the South-West of France, is a shared holiday home for a group of Brits. The shocking death of Ian, one of the group’s members, taints the happy memories of the house and the group decides to try and sell it on. However, another member, Tessa, senses secrets and endeavors to find out more...
The present-day story is interwoven with chapters about the past, and the life story of the Castignac farmer is revealed through flashbacks to the First World War. The hidden history of this farmhouse is brought further into question when Tessa unveils a drawing of a wild orchid, called the ‘Hanged Man’ in French.
There’s one person that holds all the answers, but they’re hiding a secret of their own. Can Tessa discover what really happened at the farmhouse and in doing so, free it of its demons?
Andrée Rushton has degrees in both history and social work. She was previously a social worker before becoming a civil servant until retirement. In the past she has written various textbooks and articles about social work. She has now turned her writing talents to fiction and this is her second historical novel after publishing The War Baby in 2016. Andrée is also the secretary of the Friends of Putney Library and volunteers with a local primary school, helping children to read. She lives in Putney in South-West London.
Andrée says, “I belonged to a group of British people who owned a house in the Ariège near the French Pyrenees for twenty years and I love the countryside there with its mountain views, valleys and abundance of wild flowers. In 2009, my account of our experience was published by Bristol Books and written up in French Property News and the Sunday Times property pages. I also have a family connection with France and a working knowledge of French.”
Morven Leese (Guest Review) - 11 Apr, 2021
There are essentially two narrative streams in The Hanged Man, one about a French family over time and their involvement in two World Wars, and an intersecting story of British people holidaying together in more recent times in the family house in the south of France. It is perhaps best described as a kind of historical novel, with an element of mystery in the gradual revelation of the connection between the two stories.
I enjoyed this novel a lot. The contrast between the mind sets of the older French generations and the more modern British holiday makers was well observed, and the historical background and how it affected the different generations was interesting and convincing. I was engaged throughout with the various characters, and the descriptions of the French countryside were very lyrical and made me want to go there to see the area for myself. A highly recommendable book!
Peter Main (Guest Review) - 11 Apr, 2021
Your previous reviewer is right – this is not exactly a thriller, but it is an elegantly written and atmospheric story, which certainly has enough elements of mystery to keep you wanting to read on. The narrative switches smoothly between two time periods, in a way which reminded me a little of Kate Mosse. Rushton’s characters are engaging and they play out their lives against a backdrop which glows with the atmosphere of rural France.
I recommend this book and I will be keeping a watchful eye for the appearance of her next one.
John Fisher (Guest Review) - 11 Apr, 2021
An exciting read. A group of contemporary Londoners purchase an ancient farm property in southern france as a holiday home. There’s a sudden and unexplained death of a member of their group leading Tessa to peel back the layers of the farm’s remarkable history. She learns of the horrifying impact of the Nazi occupation on the farm’s inhabitants and people in the adjacent village. The suspension of civil liberties and brutality of the nazi occupation informs us that the current pandemic is,by comparison,small beer. In a time when democracy appears fragile the books historical narrative shows where strident nationalism might lead us. Parallel to all this is a tender story of unrequited love and a search for certainty in this volatile time. This book is page turner.
Yvonne @ A Darn Good Read (Guest Review) - 11 Apr, 2021
A group of English friends purchase an old farmhouse in France as a holiday home. Prior to the purchase, Castignac had been in the Lordat family for over 400 years, although the house the group purchase only dates to 1860. In the grounds is an old abandoned building, the former farmhouse with a pigeon loft tower. Two of the friends, Tessa and Ian, are drawn to it more than the others, and the discovery of an orchid growing near the building, the flowers of which resemble a hanged man, adds a sinister touch and gives credence to a past tragedy.
When Ian dies in the abandoned building, the group consider selling Castignac. Tessa is reluctant to sell and her obsession with finding out what happened to Ian threatens to alienate her from the rest of the group. Her doggedness, however, uncovers the past of the Lordat family, with secrets reaching back through two world wars.
From the description of the house and gardens, the attraction of the property is apparent. An idyllic summertime haven, selling would be a wrench no matter whether the property had been owned for centuries or just a short time.
At times, I didn’t like Tessa. Her determination to find out what happened to Ian showed a lack of sensitivity towards his grieving family and her pursuit of Jacques Lordat, the old farmer and previous owner of Castignac, for his story, bordered on harassment. Nevertheless, I could understand her motivation. A strong natural connection to the place meant she didn’t want to let it go without a fight and finding out what caused Ian’s death could convince the others not to sell.
The mention of World War I and II drew me to this novel and it was those sections that appealed to me more than the present day ones; they were more emotionally engaging. Events that occurred during the German Occupation had far reaching consequences, amongst them ostracism, shame and the lifetime pain of a tragic decision.
The book’s classification as a mystery and thriller led me to expect a different type of story. It falls short of being a thriller, but could have gone down that path quite easily; all the right elements were there. Instead, the story develops at a gentle pace, smoothly switching between the present and the past, with tantalising revelations to keep the mystery alive until the significance of the ‘hanged man’ is finally uncovered.
The Hanged Man is a well-told story. While it wasn’t the thriller I’d anticipated, I enjoyed it and hope to read more from this author.