Washington Square Press
Published March 3, 2009
Trade Paperback, 496 pages
I loved reading The House at Riverton mainly because the author writes beautifully, her characters are well-developed and she has a good story to tell. The story fluctuates between present and past and is so well done I never felt a break in the flow of narrative. I was quickly drawn in from the very beginning as 98-year-old Grace tells about her past-- a past that begins in 1914 at the brink of WWI when Grace is but a 14 year-old servant girl in England, until the roaring twenties when the unraveling of events comes to an end.
Grace's life is closely tied to the aristocratic Hartford sisters, Hannah and Emmeline and their family who live at Riverton House. Then, in the summer of 1924, at a society party, a young poet commits suicide and only the Hartford girls and Grace know the truth. This truth Grace has told no one, but now that she is in a nursing home and getting frailer by the day, she wants to tell her story before she dies.
Although I enjoyed Grace's narrative, I did not always agree with her choices. Sometimes, I wanted to shake her. But the way she tells the story is so compelling. We get an idea of why servants were loyal to their employers, of why the changes that WWI brought were difficult, necessary and pivotal, and how a small mistake can be life shattering. I also thought that the book could have been shorter and that The Game the Hartford children played would have been more important to the plot, but unfortunately it wasn't.
Grace lives through the turbulent postwar years marked by great societal changes that affect the characters and their decisions. I found the author did a superb job of bring this era to life. Alfred, one of the servants, was much affected by these changes and he is the one that was proactive as opposed to Grace.
Ultimately, there is much tragedy in this novel, however, the story comes to a stunning conclusion, some of which did not totally surprise me except for the role that Grace herself unwittingly played in it. I will definitely read more by this author.
Disclosure: I bought this book at Costco. I was not told how to rate or review this product.
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