Saturday, August 10, 2013
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
4.0 out of 5 stars - True history, the past, is not flat or linear nor does it have an outline...
Another great historical fiction read with delicious secrets and mystery from this author!
The reader is transported between the 1920s and the late 1990s with most of the narration being that by the book's main character, Grace Bradley, who is 98 years old and living out her final days in a nursing home in Saffron Green, Essex, in the UK. She recounts her memories when asked to consult with a filmaker who is working on a film about an event that Grace witnessed in 1924 - a young poet committed suicide during a party at the summer house where Grace was employed as a ladies maid to Hannah Luxton Hartford, the lady of the manor. Another person was also there at the time of the incident, Emmeline Hartford, who was Hannah's younger sister.
Grace recalls her life and times as she records them for her grandson whom she has't seen in a long time. She also befriends and agrees to help Ursula, the film's producer. Details are important and it is time to set things right - to tell the truth.
Grace, age 14, had been sent to work as a housemaid at Riverton Manor in June 1914. Her single mother had also been in service there until she had to leave in disgrace. Grace describes life and times below stairs as a servant in a time long past. She is a keen observer of both the family who live there and of the events of the day (WW I, influenza, social changes) that occur over the course of her service with the Hartfords. She forms a special bond with Hannah, becomes her personal maid and attends her in all personal and private matters. She is a trusted and valuable member of the household. Keeping secrets is what Grace does best. But secrets rarely stay hidden and "have a way of making themselves known." And it is a secret that leads to ultimate calamity.
The tale Grace tells, and how she recounts her part in it, is absorbing and complex. The shifts back and forth in time engage the reader and kept me from being able to put the book down before I finished. Although somewhat predictable in a particular scenario or two, the conclusion is satisfying and nicely explained.
I enjoyed this and plan to read the other books by this author!