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The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons
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's review
May 08, 2012

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bookshelves: well-worth-the-read
Read in May, 2012

Book Review: The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomon

Confession: I was in one of my favorite bookstores, Denver’s The Tattered Cover (AKA: A piece of heaven!). One of the things that I like about the Tattered Cover is that it always has interesting displays that pique my interest—even if the display is on a subject that is not usually of interest to me. So, when I saw the display of books that said, “If you loved Downton Abbey, you’ll love these” (or something like that), I was there. I loved Downton Abbey, despite the fact that my brother and sister-in-law accuse it of being boring. That doesn’t hurt me. My brother rarely likes what he calls “good books." His denigration actually makes me want to read or watch something more than I otherwise would have. Maybe I’m just contrary. Probably.
Anyway, I was ready to devour Natasha Solomon’s novel about a Jewish girl from the Austrian bourgeoisie set who takes a job as a maid in 1938. She makes her way across the sea to a remote part of England and tries to make herself at home in the “downstairs” section of an English country manor. She finds this difficult, having ordered around servants herself at one time. I don’t want to give away too many details, but I did enjoy this world. It literally portrays the fall of the minor English aristocracy. The book is full of dark shadows, juxtaposed with the last pulse of light from an era that has been slowly expiring for the last three decades.
I love Solomon’s characters. Elise is likable, even when she pouts. Kit is intense in his boyish playfulness, but has an unwavering dedication to duty. The Landaus were the most interesting couple of the story; she an opera singer, he a novelist. I would have liked to have spent more time with them in Austria. I liked the novel very much, but for me it was not like “Downton Abbey." If I were to compare this to a novel, I would say that in some ways, it reminded me of Daphne DuMaurier’s “Rebecca," but only nominally. This is not a mystery, but it is a memoir; both books open with a dream of a grand old manor.
There is not that strict delineation between aristocracy and the house that is usually seen. Not because of the way they relate to each other, but because of the way Solomon tells her story. This is a grand house, but even in the beginning, the staff seems very small. The story focuses on just three people, and the thing that I liked about "Downton Abbey" is the nature of it ensemble cast. That said, I would recommend this story to anyone interested in the beginning of WWII and the plight of the Jewish refugees at that time. The story took me in and wrapped around me. The families surrounded me and I became a part of them. Solomon’s talent in doing that is tremendous indeed.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Sarah I wholeheartedly agree with your review! I was drawn in for the same reason, but found the novel lacking based on what I originally thought it was going to be.

Julie Agree with you about 'Tattered Cover.' We need one in th emidwest.

Mindy I agree with you also. I too found my copy at The Tattered Cover in Denver! The same display pulled me in as well. I sure wish we had something similar in the Midwest.

Laura Wow! That's amazing!

message 5: by Kate (new) - added it

Kate I agreed with just about everything you wrote. Thanks for your eloquence and saving me the effort! Haha

Laura Thank you! :)

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