Three Houses, Many Lives by Gillian Tindall is published in hardback by Chatto & Windus, priced £18.99. Available now.

An old Anglo Saxon poem - "For thee was a house built/Ere thou was born" - gave Gillian Tindall a childhood fascination with old houses and persuaded her that somewhere, an historic property was waiting for her to discover.

Houses, to her, are the different people who have inhabited and changed them. She traces with meticulous care the story of three old houses across several centuries.

One in Limpsfield, on the Kent-Surrey border, is where the author was unhappily at boarding school in the early 1950s. Another she discovered in use as a Tory HQ in North London while visiting a boyfriend, and the third was for centuries a decaying vicarage deep in the Oxfordshire countryside.

From this painstaking research, parallel themes emerge: changes in the make-up of the local community may be the reflection of wider, national trends and at other times, purely local matters driven by enigmatic characters.

Gillian Tindall is highly regarded as an architectural writer but the big surprise of this book is the fascinating thread of memories which holds the narrative together.

(Review by Jeremy Gates)