When their mother died in a car accident, life turned upside down for Jen, Peter, and Becky Morgan. Needing a change of scenery, their father decides to move to Wales, taking the two younger children with him. Jen stay in Massachusetts with her Aunt and Uncle to finish high school. Her family’s letters have led Jen to believe that all is well in Wales, but when she goes to visit for the Christmas holiday, she realizes that things are not quite so idyllic. Peter is utterly miserable, spending every waking moment complaining, fighting with his father, or reading alone in his room. Their father spends most of his time locked away in his study. Becky has been making friends, but is distraught by the distance between her father and Peter. And Peter has a secret: an ancient harp key that he discovered on the seashore which somehow magically transports him back in time to the world of the 6th century Welsh bard Taliesin. Jen struggles to pull her family together while Peter tries to figure out the purpose behind the key’s magic story. And eventually, all of the Morgans become immersed in the magic and beauty of rural Wales.
In this beautifully rich novel, a broken family is healed through immersion in Welsh culture. Peter—who needs the most healing—is literally thrown into the fabric of past Wales (though as an observer, not a participant), while the rest of the family experiences modern (1970s) Wales with glimpses into Peter’s fantasy world. The story is slow-moving and best for readers who love imagery-rich, immersive books.
Consider the audiobook, narrated by Barbara Caruso. Her American accent is spotty, but otherwise it is a great performance and American listeners will be very grateful to have her pronunciation of all of the Welsh names and places!
If you liked A String in the Harp, you might like Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper and The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.