Ferney by James Long: a Book Review

Whether you believe in reincarnation or not Ferney by James Long is a most enjoyable read. It’s difficult to write about it without giving away too much. I liked the balance between historical fact and imagination as the story of Ferney and Gally unfolds.

When Gally and her husband Mike buy a derelict cottage in Penselwood in Somerset they meet Ferney, an old man of 80 who knows the history of the cottage.  When they first see the cottage

It was not much more than a shell, and a green wet-looking shell at that, though the roof was still on. Long and low, the jumbled lines of its random stonework told of many changes and additions over all the busy years. The roof-line took a little step downwards towards the far end. Stone lintels topped window holes filled only by ivy and from the middle of the house a buckled, wooden lattice-work porch jutted out, tilting down on to its knees from the weight of the creeper that had massed on it, sensing an easy opponent.

Gally thinks it is perfect. Despite his misgivings Mike agrees to buy and renovate the cottage because after Gally’s miscarriage he wants to keep her on an even keel and this promised to bring her “more peace and happiness than he had seen since they first met.”  At this point in the book Gally is very fragile, tormented by nightmares and mentally unbalanced (or so I thought).

But right from their first meeting with Ferney he startles them both. Gally sees him as “a  philospher king with a sword in one hand and a book of verse in the other.” And as the bond grows between Gally and Ferney, Mike is upset immediately feeling on the defensive, irritated, and pushed out. And he is quite right to feel like that. Mike is a historian but he finds it hard to believe Ferney’s stories of the past and insists on having proof. The contrast between the two men is a focal point with Gally torn between the two of them.

I loved the way the narrative slips effortlessly from the past to the present as time slips for Gally and she finds herself reliving scenes from long ago. Just what effect does the cottage and the Bag Stone that stands outside have on their lives? And how will the relationship between Gally and Ferney be resolved? I just had to read on and on to find out.

This is the 12th library book I’ve read this year.

One thought on “Ferney by James Long: a Book Review”

  1. I started reading this at the beginning of the year for my library’s winter reading program. I was, however, finding it hard to settle down with any of the books I was picking up at the time, so it ended up back at the library unread (well, I read the first few pages, but they didn’t sufficiently grab me at the time). I think I need to give this one another try as every review I’ve read has been very positive!

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