JUST FINISHED: The House at Riverton

Author: Kate Morton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The House at Riverton is a fictional history of a prominent English family from the viewpoint of a housemaid named Grace. An interesting twist on the storytelling is that it is done from present day Grace in the last of her days in an attempt to relinquish the grief she has carried from the family. Many memories are spawned back to her as a movie director that has decided to make the family’s life into a film begins meeting with her about details of the house at Riverton. Telling the story in this manner reminded me greatly of another novel I had read by Morton, The Secret Keeper, which tells me that this type of POV writing is a favorite.

Grace’s life is greatly changed as she entered service as a housemaid, becoming completely engaged at the curiosities and energies exhibited by the Hartford children: Hannah, Emmeline, and David. Full of new notions and a familiar feeling that Grace cannot shake off, she become enamored and falls in love with the family.

The novel begins with a frightening scene told as Grace’s nightmare which is slowly pieced together throughout with the true turn of events revealed at the end. While that is the main line that keeps this book interesting, there is also the ongoing mystery of what will finally bring it all to the end, as in the dispersion of the family. The Hartford children create problems for themselves at a rate that is increasingly dramatic as they age. Much like a freight train on crash course with no brakes.

An interesting historical topic that this book deals with is the changing of times
after World War I and into the 1920s. During this time the English Elite were starting to diminish as the middle class began to take hold of the world. The book delves into this issue showing the changing attitudes of the people. One particularly notable change that occurs is that when Grace begins her life of service her position is held highly but by the end many would not even dare take a job as a lady’s maid. That life offered only diminishing returns and no freedom.

If you enjoy Downton Abbey and books built around parasitic relationships, you should check this one out.

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