Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thoughts: The House at Riverton

The House at Riverton

by Kate Morton

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  xx Stars

Grace Bradley was just a girl when she began working as a servant at Riverton House.  For years, her life was inextricably tied up with the glamorous and eccentric Hartford family's daughters, Hannah and Emmeline.  Then, at a glittering society party in the summer of 1924, a young poet shot himself.  The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline, and only they--and Grace--knew the dark truth.

Many years later, when Grace is living out her last days in a nursing home, she receives a visit from a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer.  The director takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories of the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege, of the vibrant twenties and of a stunning secret that Grace kept all her life.

A vivid, page-turning tale of suspense and passion, The House at Riverton is marked by indelible characters and a breathtaking ending that readers won't soon forget.


This is my very first Kate Morton book, and unsurprisingly, I found it extremely addictive to read in spite of the fact that there were so many frustrating events.  The story itself even seemed to drag a little bit at some points, and I found that there were some points where I wished the progression would just move on already and give us the next event.  Foreshadowing left little to be interpreted, thus making all the secrets left to be revealed pretty predictable.  Really, the only thing I think I finished reading the book for were the little holes of the story left to fill in, and Kate Morton's beautiful writing style.

I guess I also kind of hoped that we would get to catch a few more glimpses of Grace's life post-Riverton.  Truth be told, while the story about the Hartford sisters, with the main focus being on Hannah, was intriguing, I can't say that I truly felt much care for their day-to-day lives, or how conflicting their life decisions were.  Even the main, tragic event that Grace continually alludes to throughout the book ended up being less than interesting, once you picked up all the hints and figured out what probably really happened.

I knew going into this that it was obviously not going to be a Happily Ever After; that the book was going to be hauntingly tragic, even if atmospherically attractive.  While I had a hard time relating to characters--this was, after all, a much different world than what I'm used to in modern times--it was hard not to entirely sympathize with them, even though it was clear that our main characters all kind of dug their own graves (pun, not quite intended) with each and every step they took forward in their lives. I found myself wincing outwardly whenever a character made an important decision that I KNEW was not going to end well for anyone.

I even openly winced when Grace kept getting dragged into the middle of her Mistress's secrets, and while I found it frustrating that she would be so intent and passionate about her loyalties to Hannah, it was also understandable, in a way.  Again, this is a different world than what I know, after all, and people's mindsets were infinitely different.

Nonetheless, the book was written very beautifully, and with such a big secret being lead up to for the bulk of the book, I subconsciously found the need to keep right on reading.  Predictable as it was, I still loved how the story was framed and formatted, as Grace remembering the past and recording her story and the story of those at Riverton for her grandson to hear.  It was a very nice touch, and I DO love how we drift back and forth from present, to randomly different times in Grace's history, with only the main story following a specific timeline.

Once again, those slight mentions of how she came to be pregnant with Ruth, and how she ended up pursuing archaeology as her career, and how he came to be part of the next war, thus separating her from her husband (whom she did not love), were sweet little gems that gave the story telling a more down-to-earth feel, rather than the Gothic, almost incredible story of events that took place at Riverton.

I will probably continue to read books by Kate Morton, as this was a great introductory to her work.  However, reading this book reminds me why I have a hard time loving or one hundred percent enjoying historical fiction.  This book shows a much more detailed, nitty-gritty accounting of the times, and takes a closer look at how snobbish aristocrats can be, and how divided classes were.  It gave us a different rendering of how one culture unabashedly stereotypes and judges another based solely on their own closed-minded knowledge of the world.  It showed a more historically accurate representation of how women were treated and, in turn, how women responded to this treatment, even during the timeline wherein the "times were changing."

Basically, I have a hard time NOT getting angry on behalf of how obviously unequal people were treated dependent on class, gender, birth, etc....  And while I had some issues with Hannah, as a person and as a character, I couldn't help but to sympathize with her, and grow indignant on her behalf when everyone pretty much implied that she was good for nothing but being married off.  That her ideas and dreams of being independent and working and seeing the world needed to be quashed by marriage to a good man who would keep her in line.

Anyway, this book was a great read, very enjoyable, even if not my typical cup of tea.  The secrets were obvious and predictable from the start, and while I enjoyed the build up to each reveal, I also found I wasn't overly excited about them, and was actually quite relieved when said secrets were no longer secrets, because that meant we could move on to the next secret reveal.

One thing is for sure, as I told my BFF when describing the book to her, this book may not be a personal favorite for me, but it sure incited a lot of emotions, and it certainly stays with you for some time after you've finished reading it.


***

Booklikes-opoly

Roll #10:
Book title = RIVERton.

Page Count:  468
Cash Award:  $5.00

Updated Bank Balance:  $50.00


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