The North Hill Novel

"Shropshire is good for the soul"

Author - Christine Brandon

Your principal host at North Hill Farm is Chris, a former journalist who started offering accommodation in 2002 while she was still editing a regional farming paper. By 2004 the B&B had become so popular she had to make the decision whether or not to struggle on doing both jobs. It was at the time when the internet was having a big impact on local newspapers and before they came to terms with what it can do for them. She and her husband quickly built up the business in this beautiful hilltop location among the Shropshire Hills.

But Chris has not given up her writing career and in between cooking the breakfasts and during the year’s quieter periods she’s found time to write a novel.

Thorns is set in 1990s Shropshire and the county’s beautiful countryside is almost as much a personality as the human characters involved.

It moves between there and war-torn Bosnia during the siege of Sarajevo. A dark tale with two entwining love stories, it follows a war correspondent who becomes involved with a woman in the siege. After her death he comes home seeking refuge from his trauma in the peace of the Shropshire landscape. But the tranquillity of his small farm is an illusion and an act of kindness to a vulnerable girl drags him into a family dispute which erupts into callous brutality.

Chris writes under the pen name Frances Brand, feeling at first it would be better to hide her identity but has now decided to ‘come out.’

She began writing the book when the siege of Sarajevo was at its height. "Something about the awful situation in the Balkans just got into my head, I found it hard to understand how all this could be happening again in the last decade of the 20th-century and nobody seemed very concerned about it. But it was a very busy time for me, I’d just taken over running the Farmer and we'd started the bed and breakfast and I simply ran out of time. The book wasn't going as I wanted and after about fourteen chapters it sort of ran into the ground.
“I’d forgotten about it and actually got rid of the Mac it was on. But I’d printed most of it and when I unearthed it again two years ago decided to finish it. The benefit of hindsight and the continuing search for missing victims in Bosnia, plus the genocide trials at The Hague has pulled it all into perspective.
“You could say the novel is partly a tribute to Shropshire and its wonderful landscape. The county is a bit of a time warp which is part of its attraction. I always think there is something about the place that is good for the soul. Over the years since we started the B&B the hundreds of visitors who’ve come have been delighted and often awed by the landscape they see from this hilltop. The people who come here to North Hill Farm and the village of Cardington will recognise the surroundings and might well enjoy the story. It is pure fiction but people may recognise the village from its situation in a bowl among the hills. The real village provides plenty of colour and community events such as the 1995 VE Day celebration make an ideal background for some of the action.
“The Shropshire landscape really gets under your skin. Visitors are just wowed by it. I'm lucky to look out every day on a magnificent view which is constantly changing. I've lived here for more than thirty years and have developed a love for the county.”
If you would like to buy a paperback copy of THORNS by Frances Brand, price £9.99 you can order it here by pressing the Paypal button below.
Or an ebook version and paperback are available on Amazon and in some independent bookshops. 

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Amazon Review

Five star review on Amazon
Excellent, tragic drama switching between Shropshire and 1990s Bosnia.
18 November 2018
Format: Kindle Edition

This story kept me gripped right through to the shocking end and left me thinking much more about the contrast between the natural world and the cruelty, jealousy and greed that man imposes upon it. The drama unfolds against the backdrop of the raw beauty of Shropshire and the tragedy that was 1990s Bosnia. The hidden rivalries and misplaced loyalties that exist just below the surface in the small rural community are laid out skilfully by the author. The conflict in Bosnia is used very effectively to demonstrate the extremes of rivalry and prejudice within communities and how we often naively think that we, in our own villages are safe and protected. One assumes that the author has a love and knowledge of nature and farming as these form a significant and convincing part of the novel. I loved this book and would thoroughly recommend it to those who enjoy nature, love and raw drama.

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