Review: The House at Riverton- Kate Morton
”It was 1924 and I was at Riverton again. All the doors hung wide open, silk billowing in the summer breeze. An orchestra perched high in the hill beneath the ancient maple, violins lilting lazily in the warmth. The air rang with pealing laughter and crystal, and the sky was the kind of blue we’d all thought the war had destroyed forever. One of the footmen, smart in black and white, poured champagne into the top of a tower of glass flutes and everyone clapped, delighting in the splendid wastage.”
From the first paragraph this novel gripped me. The quote above, the novel’s opening paragraph, is one of the many beautiful passages evoking the haunting feel of war-time Britain, so intricately and vividly done that you can almost imagine yourself there. The House at Riverton is a beautifully written and enthralling read, perfect for fans of Daphne Du Maurier, Ian McEwan’s Atonement- and Downton Abbey.
The novel charts the progress of sisters Emmeline and Hannah Hartford, part of an aristocratic family who live in a sprawling and impressive mansion house in Riverton, in the beautiful English countryside. The sisters find themselves shackled by the social restraints of society, bewildered by the chaos of the thriving 1920s, and through it all observe the crumbling boundaries between the rich and the poor, and constantly changing British morals and expectations. It is narrated by Grace Bradley, a 98 year old who once worked as a maid at Riverton. As an old woman Grace is living out the rest of her days in a retirement home. But when she discovers that a film is to be made about a young poet who committed suicide and was linked to the lives of Hannah and Emmeline, she decides it may be time to finally look back on her life and reveal a devastating secret surrounding the Hartford sisters. Morton weaves a compelling and intricate mystery that has spanned over 50 years, against the backdrop of war-torn Britain. The depiction of life- good and bad- of both upstairs and downstairs was brilliantly done, with a fantastic cast of characters from all walks of life. I was totally absorbed, and even while correctly guessing some tangles in the plot, I could not guess at the final twist at its finale.
An exploration of love, family bonds, complicated relationships and the decisions we make that can affect people’s lives in years to come, The House at Riverton is a must-read, and I can’t wait to read more of Morton’s novels.
Do I recommend you to read it? Definitely- especially if you’re a Downton Abbey fan!
Genre: Historical /mystery / romance