Salma's Reviews > The House at Riverton

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
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's review
Jul 22, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: romantic-suspense
Read in August, 2009

Grace is 99 years old, and enjoying (?) her nursing home days when some artsy indie-flick people decide they want to make a film about the famous House at Riverton in England, where Grace worked as a housemaid eighty years ago. Why make a film on the House? Because of the events that took place one night in the 1920s. Robbie Hunter, brilliant poet, took his life during a party, while sisters (not his) Hannah and Emmeline watched. Why did he die? What were the circumstances surrounding his relationship with Hannah and Emmeline that led to such a gruesome ending?

Through flashback, Grace leads us through the story. From her meeting the Luxton siblings, Hannah, Emmeline, and David when all four of them are children to her working as a lady's maid for Hannah as an adult. The mystery of Robbie doesn't fully materialize until the last half of the book. Until then, we see how the characters are destroyed by WWI, we experience the cruelty of classism, and we see how Hannah and Emmeline, and of course, Grace, are trapped by their rank and position, with respect to both gender and class.

This story technically falls under romantic suspense, but the author's focus is on showing the effects of war and class structures. Morton's prose is exquisite, her sentences as graceful as a pirouette. The book isn't without its faults- the reader figures out a major plot point regarding the mystery of Grace's parentage almost immediately and then wonders why on earth it takes a smart woman like Grace nearly the whole book to figure it out herself. The relationship between Hannah and Grace is supposedly so strong that the latter makes an irreversible decision based on their 'bond.' I put that word in quotes because the reader doesn't understand why Grace is so attached to Hannah. It doesn't seem believable.

And if I have to read about another dark-eyed, tortured male poet who treats women like shit, I'm going to hurl a book at someone. The stereotype's been used ad nauseam. But in spite of all this, I genuinely enjoyed the novel. The story itself isn't the most original- you can see something similar anytime on BBC drama. But the narrator's voice, the unique and disturbing ending, and above all, the musicality of the prose still lets me highly recommend it to others.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn I'm eager to knoe what you think of this one. She wrote that "Forgotten Garden" that I'm hoping to read soon.

Salma lol- yeah, I tried to get Forgotten Garden, but the copies in my local library have 24 holds on them! I asked my mom to get it from Princeton U's library, and it's charged out there too. So, I just gave up and got this one for now. So far, I'm really loving it. Very talented writer.

message 3: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn So delighted to hear that her writing is good. Now I'm going to have to get "Forgotten Garden" since the concept is appealing and now I know she'll be the sort of writer who can make it happen!

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