Synopsis (from Amazon)
Summer 1924: On the eve of a glittering Society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.
Winter 1999: Grace Bradley, 98, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet’s suicide. Ghosts awaken and memories, long-consigned to the dark reaches of Grace’s mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge; something history has forgotten but Grace never could.
A thrilling mystery and a compelling love story, The House at Riverton will appeal to readers of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between, and lovers of the film Gosford Park.
I remember seeing The House at Riverton around a lot when it was first released, I picked it up a few times to look at but always found something I was more sure about to actually buy. I was interested in the story but it sounded a bit more like something my Mum would buy than me (our taste does overlap somewhat, and it means I often look at books which might actually be more up her alley than mine). It wasn’t until I read and enjoyed The Forgotten Garden (also by Kate Morton) that I actually added the House at Riverton to my wishlist, and it’s taken me two years to actually read it (due to my habit of buying books I spot in the shop rather than books that are already on my wishlist).
Part of me does wish I had read The House at Riverton when I first saw it, although maybe my approach would have been less positive then. I did enjoy it very much and it kept me guessing right up to the end, at one point I thought I had the end figured out but then it twisted away from me- I was all ready to write a review saying that it was enjoyable and mysterious but turned out to be a little predictable! I think it was quite clever how Morton made the reader think they had everything figured out only to snatch t from them at the very last minute. It’s a little difficult to review without giving the game away but I think it was quite romantic, although not in the way of a traditional romantic novel. I liked seeing the different types of romances and how they contrasted with each other. I liked the way Grace’s own romance seemed very simple but seemed somehow like the most deserved (highlight for spoiler) and ultimately the most successful. Hannah and Robbie’s romance might have been more like ‘movie love’, against the odds and star-crossed, but it was interesting to see how dramatic love is not necessarily the best kind.
As far as the characters went I really liked Grace, maybe simply because she was such and honest storyteller and was the character we got to know best, but I admired Hannah up to a point and I would have liked to know more about Emmeline.
I wouldn’t call The House at Riverton a literary great but I enjoyed it, and it was an easy but engaging read.