The House at Riverton Author:Kate Morton The House at Riverton is a gorgeous debut novel set in England between the wars. It is the story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death and a way of life that vanished forever, told in flashback by a woman who witnessed it all and kept a secret for decades. — Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was j... more »ust a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline.
In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they -- and Grace -- know the truth.
In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace's youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever.
The novel is full of secrets -- some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne du Maurier. It is also a meditation on memory, the devastation of war and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history.
The House at Riverton is a vivid, page-turning novel of suspense and passion, with characters and an ending the reader won't soon forget.« less
This was such an incredibly haunting and heartbreaking book. You know from the very beginning that some unspeakable tragedy has occurred in the lives of the Hartford family, and you spend the rest of the book watching it all unfold.
'The House at Riverton' was a perfect blend of two other books. The style, tone, and structure of 'Riverton' reminded me very much of Diane Setterfield's 'The Thirteenth Tale.' The incredibly realistic descriptions and insights into the life of a professional serving staff was on par with Kazo Ishiguro's 'The Remains of the Day.'
The best summary I can give of what this book contains is a quote from the Author's Note. Morton states that the concept of 'Riverton' appealed to her because it was able to ..."utilize tropes of the literary gothic; the haunting of the present by the past; the insistence of family secrets; return of the repressed; the centrality of inheritance (material, psychological, and physical); haunted houses (particularly haunting of a metaphysical nature); suspicion concerning new technology and changing methods; the entrapment of women (whether physical or social) and associated claustrophobia; character doubling; the unreliability of memory and the partial nature of history; mysteries and the unseen; confessional narrative; and embedded texts."
The story is incredibly compelling and it will leave you guessing about the real truth of events until the very last pages. It stays with you even after you finish it just as much for the things that it reveals as for the things it leaves unspoken. This is a masterful debut novel and I highly recommend it.
Wow! I couldn't put this book down. It's exciting to the very end. I'm sure it will be made into a screenplay one day. I really enjoy the way Kate Morton writes. By the end of the book, you know the main characters well and get a glimpse of life as it is through their eyes. The Forgotten Garden is just as riveting; a story you won't easily forget.
This book tells the tragic story of a grand English family through the eyes and ears of one of their servants, Grace. The book opens when Grace, age 98, is contacted by a woman who is in the process of making a movie that will depict the history of the House at Riverton. Grace is asked to be a consultant on the movie based on her experiences with the family and the house. While visiting the studio sets for the film, long hidden memories are awakened in Grace, who later decides she must record those memories for the benefit of her grandson, Marcus.
This story of the House at Riverton begins in 1914 when a 14 year-old Grace hires on as a servant girl in the house. She soon meets the Hartford children, who are all about the same age as Grace, and she is immediately smitten with them. All the children grow older as the country enters into WWI, which takes an immeasurable toll on the family. As the Hartford girls go on to make their debut into society they wrestle with the new post-war attitudes and expectations of what it means to be a modern woman verses what has traditionally been a woman's role in society. The entire Hartford family history leads up to a very mysterious, very public tragedy that gradually comes into focus as the story fleshes out.
In the book, Grace's memories of the Hartford family are interspersed with glimpses of Grace's life since her time in service to the Hartford family and her present day life as an elderly lady in a nursing facility. The reader is drawn back and forth between the present and the past, constantly discovering little pieces of the puzzle, sometimes in the past and sometimes in the present; a convention that keeps the story fresh and alive throughout the book. Ms. Morton has done a wonderful job not only of representing the early 20th century in both events and social attitudes, but also in creating a truly believable cast of characters with which to populate her creation.
I loved this book. Fans of "Rebecca" by Daphne Du Maurier will recognize the opening line, and like Du Maurier's work, it is haunting with well-drawn characters. The Gothic elements never overwhelm the fact that it is a great story. Fans of Downton Abbey will love the setting and there's this same sense of the world changing and the characters having to come to terms with the old world being swept away by the war and the social changes of the 1920s. I love all of Morton's books, but this one remains my favorite.
I liked this one much better than her more recent "The Forgotten Garden".
Great insights of life at the turn of the century into the WW1 era and '20s without the actual historical war accounts. More about the people on the fringes. Separation of the classes and their individual roles/family expectations are portrayed (a la Upstairs,Downstairs). The author uses first person and much dialogue throughout, more like a screenplay. Also, there are just enough characters, easy to follow and not have to "page back". Basically, "almost centenarian" starts recording her life story for her grandson. Written in flashbacks, it delivers a coming of age story, suspense, murder-mystery, romance, and class privilege.
The House at Riverton is full of secrets and stories. There are secret affairs, secret children, secret stories and secret deaths. The characters are very likeable and the historical novel, set in England in the 20's, is very well told. There are surprises all along the way, even right up to the last page. I recommend this one.