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Thornyhold summary

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To Gilly Ramsey, during her lonely childhood, the occasional brief visits of her mother's cousin Geillis were a delight, appearing to the unhappy child like the visits of a fairy godmother. Years later, when Cousin Geillis was dead, and had willed her house, Thornyhold, to Gilly, the latter discovered that "fairy godmother" was indeed apt. For Cousin Geillis, with her still-room, and her herbalist's practice--and her undoubted powers--had long been known to the locals as a witch. And Gilly, inheriting "the witch's house," inherits, too, in spite of herself, her cousin's reputations. She is approached by neighbours, some innocent, some not so innocent, but all assuming that she, too, is a witch, and a possible addition to the local coven. There is some truth in this, for Gilly, to her own surprise and discomfort, finds that in difficult moments she can call on a kind of power; it is as if Cousin Geillis is still somewhere in house and garden, weaving her own spells.

Gilly, once so shy and insecure, is gradually forced, by the very real powers at work in Thornyhold, to choose her own path through the enchanted woods. This she finally does, with the aid of an engaging small boy with a sick ferret, and then of his father. Thornyhold, with its magical strength and peace, and its sovereign defenses against evil, puts an end to loneliness and insecurity, and allows Gilly to mve forward with confidence toward a new and satisfying life.

Mary Stewart has written a twentieth-century love story, delicate in its perception of a young woman's falling in love, delightful in its portrayal of the English countryside, and skilled in its creation of a world where the magic casements open upon peril, but also upon hope and happness.

—jacket, William Morrow, 1988