• The Walnut Tree

  • A Holiday Tale
  • By: Charles Todd
  • Narrated by: Fiona Hardingham
  • Length: 6 hrs and 34 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (179 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"I was in Paris the day the French Army was mobilized."

In 1914, while visiting her friend Madeleine, Lady Elspeth Douglas's life is thrown into chaos when war breaks out and the Germans quickly overrun Belgium, threatening France. Having just agreed to marry Alain, Madeleine's dashing brother, Lady Elspeth watches him leave to join his unit, and then she sets out for England, only to find herself trapped on the French coast.

Caught amid a sea of stranded travelers, terrified refugees, and wounded men overflowing the port of Calais, the restless Elspeth - daughter of a Highland aristocrat whose distinguished family can trace its roots back to the court of Mary, Queen of Scots - decides to make herself useful, carrying water to weary soldiers near the Front. It is an act of charity that almost gets her killed when enemy shells begin to explode around her.

To her rescue comes Captain Peter Gilchrist, who pulls her away from the battle and leads her to safety. But before they can properly say good-bye, Elspeth and Peter are separated.

Back in London, surrounded by familiar comforts, Elspeth is haunted by the horrors she witnessed in France. She also cannot forget the gallant Peter Gilchrist, even though she has promised herself to Alain.

Transformed by her experience, Elspeth goes to London and enrolls in a nursing course, where she meets a fellow nurse in training, Bess Crawford. It is a daring move, made without the consent of Elspeth's guardian, her cousin Kenneth, a high-handed man with rigid notions of class and femininity.

Yet Elspeth Douglas is a woman with a mind of her own, which - as she herself says—is a blessing and a curse. She is determined to return to the battlefields of France to do her part . . . and to find the man she has no right to love, no matter how far Cousin Kenneth may go to stop her. But before she can set things right with Alain, he goes missing and then Peter is gravely wounded. In a world full of terror and uncertainty, can the sweetness of love survive or will Elspeth's troubled heart become another casualty of this terrible war?

A poignant, compelling tale brimming with adventure, danger, and love, The Walnut Tree is an enchanting holiday gift and a wonderful companion to Charles Todd's acclaimed Bess Crawford series.

©2012 Charles Todd (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about The Walnut Tree

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

For what it is it's a very nice little book

What it ISN'T is a Charles Todd mystery like the Ian Rutledge/Beth Crawford series.

It is a nice little romance/adventure story written in a style which ought to appeal to someone looking for a light and easy read with a good story and not to much tedious attention to details. It should especially appeal readers who are dipping a tentative toe into historical fiction from that era.

For those of you old enough to remember the Cherry Ames books Lady Elspeth is Cherry Ames reincarnated. Back in the day when I was a young and enthusiastic reader (still enthusiastic BTW) developing my reading tastes and cutting my literary teeth on historical fiction I went through the Cherry Ames books like a hot knife through butter.

For those of you who don't remember them google Cherry Ames and you will see what I mean. If my Granddaughter was still in her teens I would definitely buy this book as a birthday gift as I know she would have loved it.

For folks whose who are looking for a book written about this era but who want more realism I recommend Vera Brittain's excellent book Testament to Youth. That ought to be enough realism for anyone.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Love Charles Todd!

Would you consider the audio edition of The Walnut Tree to be better than the print version?

DId not read the print version, but I love to listen and to read Charles Todd novels.

What other book might you compare The Walnut Tree to and why?

A lot like the Bess Crawford series, Bess was even in this book. A little too much like Bess Crawford actually.

What does Fiona Hardingham bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

That beautiful Scottish accent!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Hmmm, I always listen in my car, so that's hard to say.

Any additional comments?

Keep them coming, Charles Todd!!!

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Brilliant Narrator!

This review is from: The Walnut Tree: A Holiday Tale (Bess Crawford Mysteries) (Kindle Edition)
I don't give out a lot of five star reviews but this book deserves everyone of those five stars. I'm not overly sure why it's called "A Holiday Tale" because it is NOT a Christmas book or any other holiday you can think of story. I can in a way understand being called that, but it is far to complicated to go into here.
This is the story of a young titled English woman living in France when WWI breaks out. She sees the need of nurses and travels back to London to train to become a nursing sister and returns to France to nurse the wounded and dying. She hides the fact that she is Lady Elspeth, from the doctors and other nurses. I'll leave it there but what a wonderful historical novel. I both read and listened to the audible version. The Audible narrator was the best I have ever heard. English, French and Scottish accents were impeccable! I finally gave up reading and listened only. First rate everything. Clean book. No swearing, no violence, no immorality issues. Don't miss out on this book.

2 people found this helpful

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Terrible Narrator. Don't Waste your credit.

I tried to listen to this book 3 different times.Never got past disc 1. I have no real opinion about the story but the Narrator was AWFUL.She had a terrible French accent. She was shrill and annoying. I have a copy of the book and will try to "read" it later on in the Fall towards Christmas as it is billed as a "Christmas Story". I would definitely NOT choose a book with this narrator again.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Improbable plot elements

If you want a summer, very lightweight romance this will do. Not quite on par with the Bess Crawford series, which is pretty light as well.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Worst narration ever!

Worst narration!!! Can’t abide the voice, the mispronunciations and overall annoying timber. Totally ruined any interest in continuing to listen.

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A Tender, Well-Written Historical Romance

this was a very nicely done historical romance set during world war I. The story is so much better than a typical romance novel. I listen to the audio version of the novel, and the performers did a fine job with the accents from the different countries involved.

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Wonderful narration; plodding narrative

This selection, which I started with much anticipation given my admiration of the work of the mother-son team writing under the pseudonym of 'Charles Todd,' has been a real disappointment. Despite a sterling performance by the narrator, who not only has a delightful voice but also superbly renders the various accents of diverse characters, was undercut by a first-person-told tale that lacks in drama and dynamism. Scene-setting and description are fine; there are strong period details thoughout; and the lead character's decision to train as a nurse, despite her high-born heritage, is compelling. However, this gutsiness is then subdued by convention, and her elder cousin's having guardianship until the protagonist attains the age of 30 is something that we are regularly reminded of-- making it seem more of an authorially-imposed device than something organic. Furthermore, the narrator has a equally contrived habit of keeping secrets for insufficient reasons: not telling her guardian how committed she is to becoming a nurse, thus not even attempting to get his permission; not telling him, nor anyone else close to her, about a pledge to one man; not telling another man she's drawn to about the pledge to the first; etc. etc. Finally, at many points during the story, we hear her offer information about the same issues or situations to different characters, resulting in redundancy. And the frisson of a brush with criminality, when she provides the authorities a link to a looting operation, comes along quite casually and very late in the story, and a great deal of the tale overall feels "told" vs "shown." All this makes the stakes feel quite low. This is a real pity, because the narrator is so excellent, and it's a true pleasure to listen to her.

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Great read

I really enjoyed this, nice follow up to the Bess Crawford series. Loved it, great like the other Charles Todd books❤

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Beautiful story!

I loved the reader and the story. I listen to many audiobooks and this is one of my favorites!

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  • country girl
  • 06-24-18

Terrible Narrator

I disliked this book mainly due to the flat boring monotone voice and bad pronunciation of the Narrator. It definately is not a Bess Crawford novel. All the Bess Crawfords are better than this, failing in any substance and very predicable storyline. Not for me I am afraid.