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 just 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.
Originally published to critical acclaim in Australia, already sold in ten countries and a #1 bestseller in England, 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.
First published in Australia as The Shifting Fog.
Last November I had a nightmare.
It was 1924 and I was at Riverton again. All the doors hung wide open, silk billowing in the summer breeze. An orchestra perched high on the hill beneath the ancient maple, violins lilting lazily in the warmth. The air rang with pealing laughter and crystal, and the sky was the kind of blue we'd all thought the war had destroyed forever. One of the footmen, smart in black and white, poured champagne into the top of a tower of glass flutes and everyone clapped, delighting in the splendid wastage.
I saw myself, the way one does in dreams, moving amongst the guests. Moving slowly, much more slowly than one can in life, the others a blur of silk and sequins.
I was looking for someone.
Then the picture changed and I was near the summer house, only it wasn't the summer house at Riverton -- it couldn't have been. This was not the shiny new building Teddy had designed, but an old structure with ivy climbing the...
While other reviewers have faulted The House at Riverton for being slow moving I think it moves along at just the right pace. In order to get to know Grace in all her complexity the plot couldn't be rushed. Peering, as we do, into her memories gives us a thorough understanding of where she has been, how she has evolved and who she currently is. It also establishes motivation for the actions of the people she summons up from her past. In the end I was glad to have become acquainted with Grace Reeves and a little sad that I would never get the chance to meet her face-to-face.
(Reviewed by Donna Chavez).
As she mentions in her notes at the end of the book, the whole concept of nobility and servant classes fascinates Morton. I think many people who aren't familiar with such a strict class system, notably Americans and Australians like Morton, are also intrigued by the thought that there could have been a ...
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