Publisher: Washington Square Press
Source & Format: gift; paperback
Synopsis from Goodreads: Grace Bradley was just a girl when she began working as a servant at Riverton House. For years, her life was inextricably tied up with the glamorous and eccentric Hartford family’s daughters, Hannah and Emmeline. Then, at a glittering society party in the summer of 1924, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline, and only they – and Grace – know the dark truth.
Many years later, when Grace is living out her last days in a nursing home, she receives a visit from a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. The director takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories of the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege, of the vibrant twenties and of a stunning secret that Grace kept all her life.
A vivid, page-turning tale of suspense and passion, The House at Rivertonis marked by indelible characters and a breathtaking ending that readers won’t soon forget.
While it’s no secret that I am obsessed with Kate Morton, I had some reservations going into this one. Most reviews that I’ve read have stated that they didn’t quite like Morton’s first novel as much as her later ones. Now, maybe it was the fact that I had gone into this with some doubt, but I found this novel to be highly engaging, haunting, and very well written. Truth be told, I liked it more than The Forgotten Garden, and about the same as The Secret Keeper. I have still yet to read The Distant Hours, so it remains to be seen whether this may become my favorite of Morton’s works.
It tells the story of Grace, who is living out the rest of her days in a nursing home. She has lived a very full life, starting out as a servant girl at the tender age of fourteen at Riverton House, and then going on to school and becoming an esteemed archaeologist. When Grace receives a visit from a movie director who is making a movie about a terrible event that once occurred at Riverton, Grace finds herself reminiscing about her years there, her relationship with one of the young girls who lived there, and a secret that she has kept all her life.
My favorite novels always seem to be multigenerational and filled with family secrets. I just devour them, and Kate Morton seems to be the author I know I can count on to keep me gripped until the very last page. She definitely has a knack for storytelling that I envy. Her characters are well written and you are able to relate to each one of them. I found myself very much like young Grace, and drawn to Hannah. She was my favorite, this young girl who definitely lived in the wrong time. It was easy to put myself in her shoes and I understood her actions in almost every moment of this story. Needless to say, I loved her. I wanted everything to work out in her favor.
I really love the way that Morton is able to give the reader just enough foreshadowing throughout the story that you are able to figure quite a bit out, but still be surprised at the climax. I liked being able to figure out some of the little secrets on my own, but still gasping at the very end. Even now, a few days after reading it, I am still haunted by the ending.
My only qualm about this book, and it is a small one, is that I would very much have liked to learn a bit more about Grace. I wanted to know her life story in between her time at Riverton and her time at the nursing home. I understand that it wasn’t the point of this novel, but it was still rather frustrating as a reader to not know about her time at university, her archaeology career, and her relationships.
“True love, it’s like an illness. I never understood it before. In books and plays. Poems. I never understood what drove otherwise intelligent, right-thinking people to do such extravagant, irrational things. Now I do. It’s an illness. You can catch it when you least expect. There’s no known cure. And sometimes, in its most extreme, it’s fatal.”
“She doesn’t know I cry for the changing times. That just as I reread favourite books, some small part of me hoping for a different ending, I find myself hoping against hope that the war will never come. That this time, somehow, it will leave us be.”
If you like historical fiction, mystery, and novels that leave you thinking about them long after you’ve turned the last page, you should definitely pick this one up. Kate Morton will not disappoint you.