REVIEW: HAZEL PRIOR – ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKEREllie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior
Published by Berkley on August 6th 2019
Genres: Contemporary Women
Format: eARC
Source: Berkley, Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Cliffhanger: No


n the rolling hills of beautiful Exmoor, there’s a barn. And in that barn, you’ll find Dan. He’s a maker of exquisite harps - but not a great maker of conversation. He’s content in his own company, quietly working and away from social situations that he doesn’t always get right.

But one day, a cherry-socked woman stumbles across his barn and the conversation flows a little more easily than usual. She says her name’s Ellie, a housewife, alone, out on her daily walk and, though she doesn’t say this, she looks sad. He wants to make her feel better, so he gives her one of his harps, made of cherry wood.

And before they know it, this simple act of kindness puts them on the path to friendship, big secrets, pet pheasants and, most importantly, true love.


by Hazel Prior

I’ve read stories about people on the autism spectrum and I loved every single one. These characters are often honest to a fault, don’t pick up social cues or behave a little awkwardly in their interaction with other people, a little quirky, very smart and utterly sweet in their disposition. And that’s Dan in a nutshell although it’s nowhere mentioned that he is, indeed, autistic.
The way he talks and processes thoughts, it’s so endearing and adorable. He made this story so special and my heart broke a little when he thought he wasn’t made for relationships because somebody told him that he didn’t have “the right ingredients.” Dan had a pure heart, he was made out of light and love.

I was sad. Sad with a sadness I’d never felt before. The sadness chewed me up and swallowed me bit by bit. I was so sad I wanted to spend the whole day walking and looking at trees and gathering pebbles, but I couldn’t. My leg wouldn’t let me.

Ellie is married to a controlling, overbearing and overly jealous man. Granted, he’s had his former girlfriend cheat on him but the way he treated Ellie was absolutely rotten. I wish I could say that I understood Ellie, holding on to her marriage as she did but, no, I didn’t, even with her history with her mother who instilled extra-low self esteem in her. She was mousy, trying not to upset her spouse so she let him walk over her for quite some time. Ellie did ultimately grow a backbone and put a lid on it but I have to admit that it took her a little too long. That notwithstanding, I found her lovable, how she cared for Dan and looked out for him, loving him with all his peculiarities and eccentricities.

“However, I had a feeling the heart of Ellie the Exmoor Housewife was completely lacking in stony components. I had a feeling it was made of much softer stuff.”

The magic of this story lies not only in the characters and their interactions but also this authors writing style. It’s as quirky as Dan and switches between past tense and present tense and I have to admit that I couldn’t figure out why the author changed tenses so often and what the purpose for it was, but I didn’t find it jarring or irritating, not at all. I really enjoyed the writing. Ellie and the Harpmaker is a charming tale about the unusual friendship between Ellie and Dan, who both captured my heart. I’m absolutely stunned that this is a debut novel – it doesn’t feel like one. Hazel Prior is an author to look out for in the future. I’m expecting big things from her.

As I watch from the window the landscape becomes wilder and hillier and sheepier. I feel that simultaneously I am becoming Dannier. And I realize that Exmoor is more than my home. Much more. Exmoor, in a way, is me. It is where I can do my harpmaking and where I can be my absolute self, and those two things are very bound up in each other.

About Hazel Prior

Hazel Prior is a harpist based in Exmoor, England. Originally from Oxford, she fell in love with the harp as a student and now performs regularly. She's had short stories published in literary magazines, and has won numerous writing competitions in the UK. Ellie and the Harpmaker is her first novel and she is working on her second.


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