The House at Riverton

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The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Publisher: Washington Square Press

Pages: 473

Source & Format: gift; paperback

Amazon // The Book Depository

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.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.29 PMWhile 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.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“It hardly needs to be said: sooner or later secrets have a way of making themselves known.”  

“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.” 

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.37 PMIf 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. 

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The Winter Sea

ImageThe Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated

Pages: 527

Source & Format: purchased; nookbook

Amazon // The Book Depository

Synopsis from GoodreadsIn the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.29 PMI am not convinced that I will have the proper words to do this book justice. It was an absolutely beautiful story, with all the elements that I love best. This is historical fiction at its finest, properly researched with just the right amount of imagination to give it a little extra.

I was slightly unsure how I was going to feel about it, because I found the actual historical aspect involving King James and the Jacobites and the war all a bit confusing in the beginning. Luckily, Kearsley included a very great scene where a character broke it down a bit, and from that point on I was able to follow along and truly disappear into the lives of the characters. And oh- what lovely characters they all were! Many times, when books go back and forth between time periods and character point of views, it can get slightly muffled in a reader’s mind. That absolutely never happened in this book. The author truly made me care deeply about all the people I met on my journey throughout Slains.

I think that one of my favorite parts of the whole story was the creativity behind having a protagonist doing research for her own novel, coming across this interesting secret history that traces back in her own lineage, and being able to follow along with her process of writing and learning about her own ancestor. It was executed flawlessly. I am in love with books about books and books within books, so this was absolutely my cup of tea. I can’t wait to read it again, and I highly recommend that others pick it up and do the same.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“But life, if nothing else, had taught her promises weren’t always to be counted on, and what appeared at first a shining chance might end in bitter disappointment.”

“And where he had run out of room to stand a book up properly on edge, he’d laid it horizontally across the top of its companions and stacked others over that, so there were books wedged in wherever there was space. It had the same effect on me as the sight of a candy store had on a six-year-old.”

“But God passes His affairs into the hands of men, and there the trouble lies.”

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This is absolutely a book that you want to stay up and finish late into the night. It actually has a nice ambience reading it into the evening, curled up under some blankets. You can sleep another time 😉

 

Thanks for reading =)

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