The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

“Last November I had a nightmare.  It was 1924 and I was at Riverton again”

The book starts off with that sentence and it sort of reminded me of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier that started off with “Last night I dreamt  I went to Manderley again” which is one of my favourite novels.

The House at Riverton is Kate Morton’s first novel and won the Richard & Judy summer read in 2007 (source: wikipedia and book cover).  I read her second novel, The Forgotten Garden first before I read this one and after finishing that novel, I loved it so much I just wanted to get my hands on more of Kate’s books.

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The story is about the 98 year old Grace Bradley, who used to be a maid at Riverton during the 1920’s where she met the Riverton grandchildren:  David, Hannah and Emmeline. The opening line, about her having a nightmare about being at Riverton again, comes directly after a film maker had contacted Grace for an interview. Grace is the only remaining person alive that was at Riverton that night when a well-known poet, Robbie Hunter shot himself. She, Hannah and Emmeline were witnesses to the unfortunate incident that happened during a society party that was held at Riverton that night. Grace and Hannah developed a friendship during the time that Grace worked at Riverton as a maid and later as a ‘lady’s maid’ for Hannah after she got married.  The novel tells the story of the life at Riverton, the various characters, the world war II, the unfortunate deaths – and there were many – that struck the Hardfort family.  Grace never knew her father and with her mother constantly reminding her how she almost gave her up for adoption, she had always longed to have a family or a sister and she found that in Hannah. She would have done anything to protect Hannah – including keeping  secret what really happened that night when Robbie killed himself. For years Grace has lived with guilt, not because of the secret she kept, but because of the role she played in the tragedy.  All will be revealed at the end of the book, but leading up to it, the story I find to be quite interesting and captivating.

The reason I give bits and pieces around the contents of the book and the story line (as you have noticed in all my reviews) is that I prefer to write a review on a book and NOT an overview. If you like my thoughts on a book then I would not like to spoil it for you by telling you exactly what happen.  I did not like this book as much as I like The Forgotten Garden, however it was a good read, another easy read.  The mystery aspect of this book wasn’t as good as Forgotten Garden, yet it was still a very enjoyable book to read especially after I needed a break from historical novels. Grace does eventually find out who her father is and I worked that out long before Kate revealed it in her book, so that one was quite predictable. However I am embarrassed to say that I did not quite expect the ending of what happened the night Robbie died. Here is a spoiler and if you don’t want to read it skip the red text…

Robbie didn’t commit suicide, however the person I THOUGHT killed him, didn’t. It was… someone totally unexpected (gasp!)  – to ME at least.

There was a comical moment for me in the book and I want to share it, because it was so funny.  Hannah and Emmeline were discussing being in love and getting married. To Emmeline, the hopeless romantic, all that seems to be the “be it all” in life, while Hannah strives to be independent in a time when it was expected for women to be at home, be a lady and having to depend on a man.  It goes like this:

Hannah: “Marriage isn’t just about having a handsome man to dance with. There is a lot more to it”

Emmeline: “ Like what?”

Hannah: “Private things. Intimacies

Emmeline: “Oh. Intimacies. Poor Fanny”

 (Fanny is a friend of theirs who recently got married and is on honey moon at the time of this conversation)

Hannah: *Silence*

Emmeline: “Hannah, what are intimacies, exactly?”

Hannah: “I…well…They’re expressions of love. Quite pleasant, I believe, with a man with whom you’re passionately in love; unthinkably distasteful with anyone else” (Quoted from The House at Riverton, Kate Morton. Page 200)

LOL!!! Ok, so you can see how much laughter I got out of that one 😉

On a more serious note, another favourite quote from this book is:

“Better to loose oneself in action than to wither in despair”

Have you tried this book before?

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