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The (Re)Birth of a Nation - Sort of
This is a book that explores a world of different things skillfully and enjoyably. It's also a welcome change from the plethora of books that seem to written so copies can be sold to book club members. It actually has some substance.
The setting is English society in transition following WWI. It is altogether possible that England's experiences at the crossroads of the 19th and 20th centuries reflect more intensely and completely changes that western societies underwent. They were in WWI longer than the US. They fought away from home while the French defended their homeland. Following the war, a greater number of the citizenry were inspired to seek change because of what they saw abroad or new opportunities they accrued while so many young men were away from home. Many of the characters are influenced by the liberalism created as a result of the tremendous changes. All this completes the backdrop for the story and the characters.
The characters who inhabit the setting experience many of the same metamorphoses. The story follows generations of a family, their servants, and their friends. It is centered around the family home and land, which has enough history to be another character in the novel. Most of the cast weighs duty against opportunity or responsibility against desire. Some make the selfless choice, some are more self-indulgent. There is remarkable irony in their interactions and almost nothing is "sugarcoated in happy ending", nonetheless the end is very satisfying.
The lord and lady have two sons, who have families. One loses a family, one has two daughters with whom he soldiers on after losing a son in the war. A butler and housekeeper 'parent' the other servants. Among them are a maid and manservant with similar backgrounds who move through the same seas of change as the family. And so on, and so on...
This is an enjoyable book that will be especially pleasing to those who love history, a bit of mystery, the English, and the classic English novel, among others.
I don't think i have ever been as drawn into a book as i was with The House at Riverton.
at night I found myself thinking about Grace and what she would do next.
Kate Morton is such a brilliant writer she truly does have a gift.
as soon as I finished it I was on the internet ordering Forgotten Garden. I started it two days ago and I've already read 300 pages.
I just cannot put her books down.
I truly love them.
I was truly blown away by this author. Morton takes you though the English countryside and inside the main character's head. It's amazing where you find yourself in this book. Each twist is not expected. I didn't see any of it coming, and then at the end, I was blown away! What a payoff! Totally enthralling. I wanted to open it and start all over again.
I enjoyed the world created by Morton's imagination and I am in awe of her creativity. The book has stayed with me and that to me is a sign of a good book. The book is rich in offering insights into the history of the times; I even enjoyed the portrayal of old age in modern times.
The House at Riverton
I very much liked this book although it did remind me of several others I have read, namely "Rebecca" and "A Woman of Substance". The one thing I would have liked is that the character of Grace be developed more fully. I liked the going back and forth from 1924 and 1999 as a plot device, and although I figured out the "secret" early on, I enjoyed the author's process. I would recommend it and I do think it would appeal to book clubs - the discussion would be interesting. It is a fast read and worth the time and I think a good first effort for this author.
The House at Riverton
This book is somewhat reminiscent of The Thirteenth Tale. It’s told in flashback by an elderly woman, sisters (one named Emmeline) are part of the story, the setting is in an old family house, and many secrets are gradually revealed. That said, it’s also very different from The Thirteenth Tale. Yes, it’s a story about a family and their servants, but it’s so much more. It’s a story of the time. England during and after World War I was a country and society in the midst of change. The concept of “Duty” is a theme throughout the book – The household staff and their duty to the family they work for, the duty to family and country that crossed all class levels. The impact of the war on the families who lost sons and fathers as well as the survivors who came home forever altered by their wartime experiences is as much a part of this book as the primary story.
Flawed, but evocative, beautiful and worth reading
The House at Riverton was evocatively written, and successfully captures the spirit of an age through the eyes of a woman in who, in her final days, relives them. The author creates vivid characters and tells a compelling story. Several compelling stories, actually: there is the story of Grace and her relationship with the daughters of the house; the story of Grace and her family; the story of the daughters of the house; all threaded around the larger theme of the changing British society in the aftermath of World War I. The author indulges in a frustrating habit of inserting unnecessary teasers of what the reader knows from the beginning is a tragic end, but this is a minor irritant in what is otherwise beautifully written. If there is a fundamental flaw to the story, it is that the author tries to accomplish too much, and makes a simple story more complicated than it needs to be through the addition of an unnecessary plot device. It may not have the timelessness of similar stories, such as Remains of the Day or Gosford Park, but it is a uniformly lovely read with occasional flashes of breathless beauty, and is more than definitely worth the time.
A story that will stay with you for a long time
The House at Riverton opens with 99 year old Grace Bradley agreeing to meet with a filmmaker who is making a movie about Riverton, the house that Grace was in service with during the First World War, and the suicide of a prominent poet during the summer of 1924. Feeling her life coming to a slow end, Grace begins recording her memories of Riverton for her grandson, so the true story of Robbie Hunter's suicide will finally be told.
It is easy to see why The House at Riverton was a number one bestseller in England. A compelling story rich in historical detail, from the end of the Victorian era, through the challenges of the Great War, to the beginning of the 1920's, when England's class system began to erode, you will be hard pressed to put this book down. Even when you do come to the shattering conclusion, Riverton and Grace Bradley will linger in your memory.