The House at Riverton

Monday, November 26, 2012

The House at Riverton 
by Kate Morton

Morton’s novels are always fun reads for me and this one didn’t disappoint. With shades of du Maurier’s Rebecca and the BBC’s Downton Abbey, the book was a wonderful mystery. I read this as part of the read-along hosted by Words and Peace, but I couldn’t manage to slow down long enough to keep to the reading schedule. Oh well.

We meet Grace at the end of her life. She is living out her days at a retirement home when she finds out a movie is being made about a dramatic event that happened in her youth. As a teenager Grace worked as a house maid at a large manor, Riverton, in the English countryside. A young poet committed suicide at the home one night and the mystery surrounding the evening has always left people wanting to know more. Grace decides it might be time to finally reveal the truth of what happened.

Like all of Morton’s novels, this one has themes of mother/daughter relationships, long-kept secrets and the English countryside. Grace’s mother used to work at Riverton and we slowly learn bits of her history as well.

After a few years at Riverton Grace becomes a lady’s maid for the Hartford sisters, Hannah and Emmeline. Their close relationship allows Grace to give us a wide-view of the happenings in the house. As the years pass and relationships become more complicated the story reminds us that one man’s happiness is another man’s prison.

I thought the relationship between Hannah and Emmeline was one of the most fascinating elements of the story. The relationship between sisters is like no other. It tends to be fraught with both love and jealousy, creating a strange and precarious balance. Morton captured this perfectly, allowing us to understand and sympathize with both sisters throughout the novel.
I really enjoyed it. The Forgotten Garden is my favorite of her’s so far, but I have a theory that your first Morton is always your favorite. This one was the perfect book to give me a Downton Abbey fix until I can watch the third season. Curl up and read it while it's cold outside!

“‘No. Not a mystery. Just a nice safe history.’ Ah my darling. But there is no such thing.”

“…for home is a magnet that lures back even its most abstracted children.”

“It is an uncanny feeling, that rare occasion when one catches a glimpse of oneself in repose. An unguarded moment, stripped of artifice, when one forgets to fool even oneself.” 

“Reading is one of life’s great pleasures; talking about books keeps their worlds alive for longer.” (This last quote actually came form an interview with Morton at the end of my book)
You can’t find my thoughts on the beginning of the novel here.


Kimberlee said...

I've heard so many good things about Kate Morton. I guess I just need to find the time to read this one. Sounds great and great review.


Jeanne said...

I miss the appeal of this (and Downton Abbey). Is there a name for this genre? English class society before WWII novel?

annieb said...

I will have to add Morton to my ever growing list of authors I want/need to read. Most of which, I might add, have come from you.

Kailana said...

I agree. The Forgotten Garden is my favourite, too. It was also my first. :) I enjoyed this one, though!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I loved this book as well, and it was my first time reading Morton, too. Glad you enjoyed it!

Jenners said...

I really must stop dilly dallying mad read this author!

Sandy Nawrot said...

This was my first Morton, and while I loved it (it was enough to bring me back again and again) I thought it was maybe a hundred pages too long. My favorite is the one I just finished, The Forgotten Garden. On that book, I wouldn't change a thing.

Melissa @ Confessions of an Avid Reader said...

Great review. The Forgotten Garden is my favourite of Morton's books, too, although The House at Riverton does run a close second.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Kimberlee - Start with Forgotten Garden!

Jeanne - I'm not sure, but whatever you call them I'm definitely a fan.

annieb - I think you'd like her!

Kailana - I need to re-read Forgotten soon.

Natalie - I can't wait to read Morton's new book!

Jenners - You should!

Sandy - I feel the same. The Forgotten Garden was just perfect!

Melissa - I think I would list The Distant Hours as my second, but they are all pretty close.