Philip Ashley is the novel’s narrator and protagonist. Philip was orphaned at a young age: his father died fighting the French in an unspecified war, and his mother lived only five months longer than her… read analysis of Philip Ashley
Rachel Ashley is the novel’s mysterious anti-heroine. Though she grew up in Italy, Rachel is distantly related to the Ashley family, having been born of an English father and an Italian mother. Rachel’s father, a… read analysis of Rachel Ashley
Ambrose Ashley is Philip’s maternal cousin and father figure. Twenty years Philip’s senior, Ambrose has raised Philip as a son since the deaths of Philip’s parents. Because he suffers from rheumatism, Ambrose spends his… read analysis of Ambrose Ashley
Signor Rainaldi is Rachel’s close friend and advisor, who is also Italian. Ambrose and Philip both suspect Rainaldi of being in love with Rachel. Rainaldi is depicted as self-absorbed and condescending, but it is… read analysis of Signor Rainaldi
Miss Mary Pascoe
The daughter of Mr. Pascoe and Mrs. Pascoe. After Philip physically assaults Rachel in an attempt to convince her to marry him, Rachel invites Mary to stay at the Ashley estate as a protector… read analysis of Miss Mary Pascoe
Steward at the Ashley estate. Seecombe has long been a servant of the Ashley family, and he is initially as displeased as Philip to hear of Ambrose’s marriage to Rachel, as there has… read analysis of Seecombe
Head gardener at the Ashley estate. Tamlyn works closely with Rachel on her plans for developing the gardens. He is also the person who draws Philip’s attention to the presence of laburnum trees on… read analysis of Tamlyn
Nick Kendall’s daughter, and Philip’s childhood friend. Louise is kind, savvy, and incredibly loyal to Philip. Though she never expresses her feelings, Louise appears to in love with Philip, but he refuses to see her as anything but a childhood friend.
Mr. Hubert Pascoe
The vicar. Like Mrs. Pascoe, Mr. Pascoe is impressed by Rachel. Though Mr. Pascoe is old and married, Philip reaches a state of such infatuation with Rachel that he is annoyed when Rachel pays attention to the vicar at Sunday dinners, since he views him as competition.
The wife of Mr. Pascoe, the vicar. Mrs. Pascoe likes to talk, and is immediately fond of Rachel. Philip’s misogynistic views are most clearly visible in his opinion of Mrs. Pascoe, whom he finds annoying and overly talkative.
Servant at the Villa Sangalletti. Giuseppe and his wife are very kind to Philip when he visits the Italian villa. In a letter from Ambrose, Philip later finds out that Ambrose also had a high opinion of Giuseppe’s loyalty and compassion.
Rachel’s first husband. An Italian nobleman, Sangalletti was rumored to have been an extravagant spender. Following his death (allegedly in a duel with one of Rachel’s lovers), Sangalletti left Rachel with substantial debt, which Ambrose (Rachel’s second husband) eventually paid off.
Philip’s fourteen-year-old dog, given to him by Ambrose on Philip’s tenth birthday. Don is paralyzed in a construction accident at the Ashley estate, while Philip is away from the house. Rachel cares for Don tenderly and even helps Philip bury him when the dog passes away.
The blue room in the Ashley estate, where Rachel stays, used to belong to Philip’s Aunt Phoebe. According to Rachel, Phoebe went mad after pining for a curate who didn’t love her. When she was fifty-four, she married another curate but died on her wedding night because of “shock.”
Coachman at the Ashley estate.
Servant boy at the Ashley estate.
The young groom at the Ashley estate.