James Long's novel Ferney has just been published as an e-book. I read it about three years ago and loved it, but in case you missed it in its previous incarnation (if I may put it that way), here's my post on it:
I've read several novels recently which are the fruits of an enormous amount of research and background reading on the part of the writers, and on the whole such books are very satisfying. The balance has to be right, of course, too much plain fact can sound didactic, it has to be incorporated into the narrative appropriately and with ease, but when it's done well it adds another dimension to a story. Ferney is the latest of this clutch of books (The Behaviour Of Moths and Our Horses In Egypt are others very much worth reading) and in it are centuries of English history glimpsed, as it were, through a gap in the curtains, but playing a major part in the story.
The book begins with Mike and Gally Martin buying Bagstone Farm, a ramshackle old cottage in Somerset. Gally, plagued by nightmares and seemingly irrational fears, feels that this is the place for her to settle down in - it seems like 'home'. Mike, anxious to please his troubled young wife, agrees despite his many misgivings which are made all the more acute when the couple meet a neighbour, the apparently ageless and mysterious Ferney.
What then transpires is an enthralling story, and one which James Long pulls off beautifully. The strange attraction of the house - for Gally at least -, the even more curious familiarity and ubiquity of Ferney are explained as an extraordinary love affair is described.
Originally published in 1998 when it acquired a loyal and notable following, the book fell out of print until a few months ago. Re-issued now and with a sequel* in the offing, this is a clear candidate for the 'most enjoyable reads' list, and makes me want to visit its setting, the real West Country village of Pen Selwood, forthwith.
*The Lives She Left Behind - due out in September!