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Hope and Jack Langley spend their honeymoon in a primitive Cornish cottage called Widdershins. Hope falls in love with the place on sight, even though half of it has fallen down, water has to be pumped by hand and there are no sea views. To their delight, soon after they return home to begin married life in a small riverside village outside Gloucester, Hope discovers she is pregnant. And, almost simultaneously, the glamorous Petersens, Henrik and Mandy, appear on the scene as new neighbours. Local rumour about the couple is rife: they are rich, they are Norwegian, they aren't married, they give crazy parties.
When Henrik and Mandy arrive one lunchtime to introduce themselves to Hope and Jack, they seem reassuringly normal and kind. Soon the two couples became close, and while Mandy encourages Hope with her dress-designing, Henrik takes Jack under his wing in his engineering business. With the birth of their second daughter, the Langleys' happiness seems complete. But appearances can be deceptive.
The challenges that eventually confront Hope are almost overwhelming, and the only place that offers refuge and peace is her beloved Widdershins.
The Apple Barrel confirms Susan Sallis's reputation as a storyteller par excellence. It is a novel that will stay with you long after you have closed the last page.