"The House At Riverton"

The House At Riverton by Kate Morton

I read this book last week and stupidly put off posting about it. Now I'm reading "The Book Of Negroes" and it has so completely taken over my thinking that I couldn't even remember what I had read previously without looking it up. From now on I'm going to write as soon as I'm done reading because I hate this trying to remember and knowing I'm not doing justice to the book. Never again. Ever. I hope.

Ok. The House At Riverton. This was a good read, but then I am a sucker for books about houses. And look at that cover! A family homestead is a character to me every bit as real as the people who live in it. Any title with the word "House" in it can usually make me buy it. "House" and "Island". I can't get past either one. A house on an island would be my idea of perfection.

This is the story of Grace, a young girl who goes into service with the Hartford family at Riverton, the same family her mother had served before her. It is told from the viewpoint of the now elderly Grace who is living in a nursing home. She has been approached by a film company who wants to tell the story of one particular summer at Riverton, the summer a young man died at a party there. Memories of those years come rushing back and Grace begins her story, alternating between the younger Grace in the past and the older Grace in the present. 

There is a good plot line in this story, with mystery and suspense that will keep you turning pages, though I have to say it was rather a weak mystery. I am not one who needs a strong plot in books because I'm quite content with good writing and interesting characters, so the mystery was a sort of bonus for me. If I'm going to be completely honest, I'm not sure I wouldn't have liked the book better without it. I've never been a fan of mysteries, but I often like the setting in which they take place and that will get me reading them. Anne Perry and Elizabeth Peters are both authors I enjoy, but it is the people, the places and the era, not the mystery, that appeals to me. I love words and for me they trump the story every time. I do like a good story, it just isn't as important to me as the words. Is that odd or are there others of you that feel the same way?

There is some good writing to be found here. For example:

"He was handsome. But who amongst the young is not? With him it was something more, the beauty of stillness. Alone in the room, his dark eyes grave beneath a line of dark brows, he gave the impression of sorrow past, deeply felt and poorly mended."   How very well said.

Spoiler Alert:   The House At Riverton doesn't have a happy-ever-after-for-everybody ending. Fortunately, that's another thing I don't require. Unfortunate things happen in life, and they happen in this book, making it all much more realistic than some. There is certainly a place for books with happy endings, but I don't need one in every book I read. End Spoiler

I liked this book for it's title, the era it is set in (beginning in 1914), the house itself, the writing and the understanding I gained about life "below stairs" on a great estate. I was less taken with the characters and the storyline. I will certainly recommend it though if you're just looking for something to lose yourself in for a couple of days.

I'm going to try another Kate Morton book soon. I have "The Forgotten Garden" on my shelf now so it'll be interesting to see if I like it any better than this one. Not that I didn't like it. I did. Just not as much as I'd hoped to.


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