Catherine's Reviews > The House at Riverton

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
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it was ok

I liked the idea of this book but thought it was sloppily thought out and executed. (Stop reading here if you haven't read this book yet as spoilers follow.) I mean, really, Hannah couldn't throw the gun in the lake rather than shooting her lover? Grace couldn't tell Hannah that she didn't know shorthand and got someone else to tell her what the first note said? And why did Hannah think Grace knew shorthand, anyway? She put a lot of work into learning it herself . . . I don't recall her ever teaching Grace. In fact, it seems likely that most employers would have assumed Grace couldn't read at all. Also, why did Frederick let Grace's mother live in utter misery and solitude, and have no interest in Grace, if they had such a big love affair? The timing of Grace's latter day career, of her relationship with Albert, of her marriage, and of the birth and ages of her children was also never terribly clear.

On the sloppy side, I think the minimal dates given for the duration of Grace's later relationship with Albert and the age of their son didn't match up. Much more irritating was the mention of Riverton Hall burning -- a whole wing plus blackening of the rest of the house -- followed by a visit by Grace and her (secret? why didn't she disclose the family tie?) great niece to an apparently completely intact house.

It just didn't all fit the way it should have.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 3, 2010 – Finished Reading
December 8, 2010 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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mirole Catherine, you must be my long-lost twin. I had exactly the same thoughts, at least the two major thoughts – early on when it was already pretty obvious that Grace is Frederick's daughter, why he let her mother live in utter poverty and misery. It would have fit if Grace had been a result of a mere dalliance on his part, but the author made sure to give us clues that he loved her deeply (e.g. appearance at her funeral) and only gave in to pressure from his mother not to be with her.
The second and THE MOST glaring thing is exactly as you said – why not do the most obvious and impulsive thing and throw the gun into the lake?!!! I thought to give this novel 4 stars as the story was quite engrossing but I knocked off 1 star right there. Even for a Gothic novel, it's pretty moribund – there are 9 dead people in this novel, only 2 of whom were killed in a war and 2 died of old age.
To your other points: Marcus was not Alfred's son, he was Grace's grandson by her only daughter, Ruth whom she had when she was about 38-39 pretty much after a one-night stand followed by a brief marriage.
Hannah met Grace once when they were still 15 or 16 y.o. in a building housing the shorthand courses but Grace was there on some other business (in a shop?) so Hannah just assumed that Grace had been there for shorthand and when mentioned it to Grace, the latter did not correct her.
But as you say, there are still very many inconsistencies. For example, Hannah left some sort of money for Grace in a bank (it was in the shorthand letter) so it's strange that Grace did not use that money for studying right away but took up odd jobs like waiting tables, cleaning and stitching for several years. It's unclear at what age exactly she started her studies and how she was able to succeed so spectacularly in her chosen field.


Catherine mirole wrote: "Catherine, you must be my long-lost twin. I had exactly the same thoughts, at least the two major thoughts – early on when it was already pretty obvious that Grace is Frederick's daughter, why he l..."

Ah, thanks for clarifying re Marcus. Maybe I was a sloppy reader on that point. I remain mystified how the house burned and yet was intact for a visit.

I think the author failed to finish thinking through her plot, which is most irksome when so much of the intended drama turns on it. The effect for me was to blunt the emotional impact of climactic scenes and revelations, and break my sense of empathy with the characters. This are pretty cardinal sins in my view.


Elizabeth she thought Grace was coming out of the secretary school, but she was coming back from a shady bookseller. I thought it was alright.


message 4: by Juliet (new) - added it

Juliet You didn’t read the book carefully. Marcus was the grandson from Ruth, (Grace’s first husband’s daughter). Also once Hannah thought she saw Grace coming out of a shorthand training school. Grace did not deny as she was on a secret mission herself. You need to re- read and may then enjoy this work of art. ''


message 5: by Susieville (new)

Susieville I'm only on age 154 and ready to abandon this book


message 6: by Marife (new) - added it

Marife Abilay Also, why not just tell Grace in person about her plan. She didn't have a problem letting Grace know her plan the first time she tried sneaking out of the house (and prolly every other time she tried sneaking out since she has to leave the house unnoticed by other servants). I mean they're pretty much inseparable.


message 7: by Cynia (last edited Sep 07, 2015 10:02AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cynia I agree, why did Grace not speak up about anything? She really wasn't all that much of a mouse.
As to the fact why Hannah thought Grace knew shorthand was because she was standing outside of the Secretarial School that Hannah had come out of, she didn't know Grace had a Sherlock Holmes book under her coat and not the shorthand notes that Hannah hid under hers.


Jaksen I found it utterly boring but I did enjoy your review. The word which came to mind as I read this book was maudlin. And I don't usually use this word at all for anything, even reviews. :D


Jeanne Grunert She didn't have a son with Albert. It's made clear around page 180 of the hardcover that Grace married a man named John. John is the father of Ruth. Ruth is the mother of Marcus. Grace doesn't have a son.


Whitney OMG that's exactly what I thought. Just toss it in the river. Drive off. The end. Also I never figured out why Hannah and Grace were so "close"- close as sisters because they never actually said anything of importance to each other.


Cynia Whitney wrote: "OMG that's exactly what I thought. Just toss it in the river. Drive off. The end. Also I never figured out why Hannah and Grace were so "close"- close as sisters because they never actually said an..."

I agree with you Whitney!


Charlotte Candice Shephard the shorthand element was explainedned early on( the encounter in town outside the training centre for shorthand), and grace's love interest was alfred, not albert. it's s easy to look at the motivations of characters from a modern perspective, but i think graces awe of the sisters and her reluctance to question them /her keeness to be accepted is probably well represented. i wasn't sure about the conclusion, but who knows what we would do in such a high pressure situation? perhaps the relationship between fredrick and graces mother should have led him to care better for her, but i guess that was the era and the nature of his social standing...i'd like to read the book again at some point. i really liked it, but it has more mixed reviews than i expected so maybe i will see it di fferently another time.


Karen Beath Ahh. Yes - I thought the same thing about the gun and the lake. So much so that I ranted about it to my boyfriend last night while he was trying to sleep (needless to say I got no response). Now I feel vindicated.


BamelaMcL Just a thought - my assumption about why Hannah shot Robbie rather than throw the gun in the lake - with how protective Hannah was of Emmeline, and how she knew Robbie had a dark side from his time in the war, perhaps when he was yelling at her to kill her sister, something turned in Hannah, being fearful of Robbie now, and so she killed him. Had she thrown the gun in the lake, Robbie would still be wanting Emmeline dead in that moment, and it presumably would be very hard for Hannah to stay with a man who had ever insisted on killing her sister.

I just finished a few minutes ago and am still observing, so pardon if this doesn't make sense. It didn't occur to me for a second that it was sloppy storytelling that the possibly more obvious (but less dramatic) thing to do was throw it in the lake. I took it as a commentary on war and trauma in that moment - that Robbie had an irrevocable dark side after the war that Hannah was now face-to-face with after only some hints at it earlier (e.g. the choking incident). I imagine in that moment, something snapped in Hannah and she knew she could never be with a man that had wanted her sister dead.

Just my $.02.


Alexis McDuffee Hannah thought Grace knew how to write shorthand because when Grace was buying her Sherlock Holmes novel, she ran into Hannah and Hannah was learning shorthand and assumed Grace was doing the same. Grace never corrected her. Perhaps Hannah couldn't have thrown the gun in the lake because her position was off and I can't imagine she was a good throw anyways. Besides, when they were on Robbie's barge, he choked her. Who's to say he wasn't going to do the same, and be violent and kill Emme without the gun? He wasn't in a right state of mind, she had to kill him.


Amanda @BamelaMcL That was my exact interpretation of the lake events at the end of the book. It was, in a sense, an act of self defense (or sisterly defense). He kept shouting SHOOT HER (or KILL HER, I don't recall) and he had already displayed bouts of uncontrollable physical violence, both with the choking incident, and with beating the man at the street festival. It was said that he wouldn't have stopped until the man was dead, had he not been pulled off by several others. I believe a seed of fear had been planted in Hannah and she acted in the moment out of that fear and defense.
I'm on the same wave length as your two cents. (I compared our reading lists.. it looks like we share similar reactions to many books!)
As for the other questions here, they seem to reveal a lack of paying attention while reading. The questions are far more confusing than the book was. Grace never had a son. Of course Hannah hadn't been teaching Grace shorthand. It isn't just intuition that is missed her, it's full scenes. I think it would help to read more carefully.


message 17: by Samantha (new) - added it

Samantha why not you the gun in the water? good point, but I think it was shocking that Robbie was willing to shoot Emmeline to have Hannah. I assumed that Hannah made a decision to keep her sister and lose her lover because both were not compatible with her life. I don't know if I'd trust someone who encouraged me to kill my own sister. It's like he finally went off the deep end.

What I don't understand is why she didn't just disappear on the barge with Robbie in the first place and to hell with what everyone thought. Why wait?


Vanessa My understanding was they foreshadowed all the ‘shell shock’ business with Alfred and the champagne. So when fireworks were going off Robbie was out of his mind (flashbacks) and so he would have been acting rashly and possibly killed her sister with or without the gun.


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