The Valentine House
In June 1914, Sir Anthony Valentine, a keen mountaineer, arrives with his family to spend the summer in their chalet, high in the French Alps. There, for the first time, fourteen-year-old foundling Mathilde starts work as one of the 'uglies' - village girls employed as servants and picked, it is believed, to ensure they don't catch Sir Anthony's roving eye. For Mathilde it is the start of a life-long entanglement with les anglais - strange, exciting people, far removed from the hard grind of farming. Except she soon finds the Valentines are less carefree than they appear, with a curiously absent daughter no one talks about. It will be decades - disrupted by war, accidents and a cruel betrayal - before Mathilde discovers the key to the mystery. And in 1976, the year Sir Anthony's great-great grandson comes to visit, she must decide whether to use it. Vividly evoking the dramatic landscape that so enthrals the Valentines, this deeply involving, intriguing novel tells the story of an English family through the generations and a memorable French woman, whose lives seem worlds apart yet which become inextricably connected.
PRAISE FOR GRACE WILLIAMS SAYS IT LOUD: Ingenious ... exuberant and vivid ... Grace's story is a life, like and unlike any other -- Tessa Hadley Guardian Far more inspiring than a hundred feelgood tomes ... stands comparison with the linguistic, and emotional, resourcefulness of Emma Donoghue's ROOM -- Boyd Tonkin Independent, Books of the Year Mesmerising ... an incredible journey through love, loss, bittersweet triumph and disaster Sunday Herald Tenderness, joy, romance and heartbreak ... energetic, passionate and not easily forgotten -- Lucy Atkins Sunday Times Clever ... unusual ... astonishing The Times
Emma Henderson's first novel, Grace Williams Says It Loud (Sceptre, 2010), won the McKitterick Prize and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, the Wellcome Book Prize, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book and the Authors' Club First Novel Award, as well as being runner-up for the Mind Book of the Year. Emma Henderson went to school in London and studied at Somerville College, Oxford and Yale University. She worked at Penguin as a copywriter for two years, then spent a decade teaching English in comprehensive schools and further education colleges before moving to the French Alps where, for six years, she ran a ski and snowboard lodge. She now lives in Derbyshire and is a lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Keele University.