Book Reviews

Blog Tour: Once Upon A Hillside by Angela McAllister and Chiara Fedele

I’m so thrilled to be part of the blog tour for this utterly beautiful collection of linked stories celebrating the British countryside through history!

Book: Once Upon a Hillside by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Chiara Fedele

Publication date: 10th November 2022

Ownership: Proof copy sent free of charge by Zephyr Books. All opinions my own.

Angela McAllister’s seven original stories follow the changing landscape of lives on one hillside from the Stone Age to the present day.

Six thousand years ago, people first came to the hillside and a story began. A Neolithic girl, Roman twins, a herbalist’s daughter, an orphaned bird-scarer, an archaeologist’s niece, three children without a home. Each faced their troubles on that ancient downland. All found healing in the place that Granny Down calls home.

Wilderness, weather, history, archaeology and folklore infuse each tale. With gorgeous illustrations of the wildlife and surrounding landscape at different points in history, this glorious full-colour, gift book is a celebration of the enduring power of nature and lives well lived.

This book is so beautiful. It would make an absolutely gorgeous gift, as it’s just a really lovely object to hold – hardcover, with lovely endpapers and jacket design and full illustration throughout. The colours are stunning, really evocative of the beautiful light that plays across the Down, and the whole thing just feels really charming. I don’t usually include additional photos in my reviews, but I just had to here, as it really does need to be seen to be fully appreciated! Here’s the naked hardcover, and the endpapers showing that lovely textured light.

The stories, too, are well worth reading. There are seven in total, moving through time from six thousand years ago to the present, and each is a sweet, heartfelt tale in its own right. The language is simple and readable but still evocative, and even though the stories are pretty short, they each feel well-rounded and enjoyable – my favourite wasWildmaid”, the medieval story (but I always love a tale of a wise woman). I really enjoyed spotting the links between them – each story features an item that was part of the previous tale, and it gave me all kinds of wonderful archaeology feelings to see those links echo down the centuries! There’s something so wonderful about seeing the commonalities and differences of humans across time, and I’m really impressed by the warmth that comes across on every single page. This would make great bedtime stories across a week, but is equally lovely read in one sitting.

This really is a book to treasure, from its lovely stories to its beautiful presentation – five out of five cats!

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