x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall: An aristocrat starts over

Paul Torday's latest novel follows a bone-idle English aristocrat's struggle to cope with the sudden loss of his fortune.

The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall
Paul Torday
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Dh78
The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall Paul Torday Weidenfeld & Nicolson Dh78

Ed Hartlepool, the protagonist of Paul Torday's latest novel, has little understanding of the value of either hard work or money. He represents a dying breed of the English aristocracy who are both extremely wealthy and bone idle.

Ed's father gave his son little advice to prepare him for the modern world, save for telling him that if "the opening sentence of a letter wasn't interesting, then the rest of it didn't deserve attention".

The book begins with Ed following the letter of his father's advice about banal correspondence. But little does he know his privileged existence is about to come to a shattering conclusion, courtesy of a ruinous tax bill.

His estate crippled, Ed is thrust (most amusingly) into a world of contemporary stereotypes, and is forced to deal with underhand property developers, egocentric architects and scheming lawyers, all of whom have designs on his country house.

As the plot develops, Ed realises quite how empty his idle-rich life had been. This theme may sound trite, but one can't help rooting for Ed as he discovers the pleasures of a simple life.