Monday, January 28, 2013

CFBA: Ashton Park by Murray Pura

My review is after the CFBA post.
This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Ashton Park
Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2013)
Murray Pura


Murray Pura was born and raised in Manitoba, just north of Minnesota and the Dakotas. He has published several novels and short story collections in Canada, and has been short-listed for a number of awards. His first books to be published in the United States are the inspirational works Rooted and Streams (both by Zondervan in 2010). His first novel to debut in the USA is A Bride’s Flight from Virginia City, Montana (Barbour), which was released January 2012. The second, The Wings of Morning, will be published by Harvest House on February 1. Both of these novels center around the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.


For fans of the hugely popular Downton Abbey series, comes this equally enthralling story of the Danforth family of Ashton Park. Among the green hills and trees of Lancashire, only a few miles from the sea, lies the beautiful and ancient estate of Ashton Park. The year is 1916.  The First World War has engulfed Europe and Sir William's and Lady Elizabeth's three sons are all in uniform--and their four daughters are involved in various pursuits of the heart and soul.

As the head of a strong Church of England family for generations, Sir William insists the Danforth estate hold morning devotions that include both family and staff. However, he is also an MP and away at Westminster in London whenever Parliament is sitting. During his long absences, Lady Elizabeth discreetly spends time in the company of the head cook of the manor, Mrs. Longstaff, who is her best friend and confidante. This friendship includes visits to a small Baptist church in Liverpool that exposes Lady Elizabeth to a less formal approach to Christian worship and preaching than she is used to and which she comes to enjoy.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Ashton Park, go HERE.

Pattie's Review:

This book is being marketed with the line, "If you're a fan of Downton Abbey, you'll enjoy your visit to Ashton Park." I'm a devoted Downton fan, but I have to say, I didn't enjoy Ashton Park nearly as much as I enjoy Downton Abbey. It was a very slow read for me, and normally I can get through a Christian historical novel in just a couple of days. This novel, with its dense prose, smaller print, and longer passages of time interspersed with chapters simultaneously coinciding with each other, took me nearly two weeks to read.

Thankfully, there is a two-page "who's who" in the beginning of the book. You'll need it (and this would be something to bookmark if you're reading this book on an ereader). There's a huge, huge cast of characters to remember.

Pura's prose is dense. It is not easily or quickly read. The issue of the novel's pace is another one that I had difficulty with. Some passages dealt with a short amount of time in great detail, with multiple chapters occurring simultaneously; at other times, the book skips months at a time and suddenly the reader is playing catch-up. I wonder if the future books in the series are covering future decades.

While the Danforth family is interesting as a whole, the patriarch is inconsistent. He seems to waffle between doing the right thing, and then suddenly becoming stubborn and interfering where his wife is concerned. I also thought some of the storylines were suspiciously similar to Downton's.

I would have enjoyed more "below stairs" action, to be honest. And perhaps more time spent on a shorter time period--say, a year or two rather than one book covering seven years.

As far as the family's Christian faith and the evangelicalism of the book, it seems generally consistent and realistic, without being smack-over-the-head-with-the-gospel-message.

That is not to say that other readers who are fans of Downton won't enjoy this book. If you're fascinated with the history and the time period, you may be enthralled with Ashton Park. It's book one of a new series, after all, so perhaps judging it on its own merit is unkind.

Special thanks to Harvest House for a review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review, as well as Bonnie Calhoun for generously allowing me to be a part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance review team.

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