House at Riverton by Kate Morton
I have to admit that I was not looking forward to reading this book for book club. I had just come off of not really liking our last book, North River (in fact it’s the one book this year that I didn’t finish reading), and this looked like it was going to be a cheesy romance. I was wondering what in the world we were going to have to discuss. Surprise! I liked the book. The jury was out on whether I was going to attend this book club. I just got back from Italy, the book was more than 400 pages and not something I was looking forward to reading. I got a notice from the library that it had arrived and figured I would at least pick it up and flip through a few pages. As it turns out I had to put down Man Gone Down from My Book Club because I am just finding it unbearable; and I really liked this one. I think I need a break from characters that I have been finding whiny and unsympathetic. Grace Bradley is 98 years old and living in a nursing home. She has a strained relationship with her daughter who it seems disapproves lifestyle choices that her mother she has made, and a writer-grandson who’s MIA after the death of his wife. Grace is contacted by a filmmaker who would like her to review the set of a movie that she is working on about tragic events at the Riverton Estate back in 1924. This triggers Grace, who worked as a maid on the estate to take a walk down memory lane and recount the events that happened the night a tragedy occurred and two sisters never spoke again. I was little apprehensive with the author’s first sentences. “Last November I had a nightmare. It was 1924 and I was back at Riverton again.” I was thinking, “Oh boy, bad Rebecca knock-off ahead!” But I kept reading and was delighted with the pace of the story and the careful unfolding of the several mysteries and plot lines. There were just enough of a wonderful balance where I was able to figure out the some of the mysteries but there was enough left to be discovered so I wasn’t bored. Does that make sense? It’s hard talking about mysteries without revealing anything. Grace is a feisty old woman, and quite funny. She had me laughing throughout with some of her observations. I would have liked to have seen more of the experiences that made her the woman she became. Besides having a murder mystery and two romances going on the book also take a look at the lives of the men who were returning from fighting in the war and the effects it had on their friends and families. There were lot’s of interesting historical details as the world became increasingly industrialized and mechanized. It was interesting to see how the rapid changes that were happening in the country affected the upper class families and also their servants. This is a wonderful and refreshing story that mixes romance, mystery and intrigue with a careful study of the upper and lower classes in Britain during times of war, change and strife. Passages That Got My Attention “This morning he smiled over his glasses and told me how well I was looking. When I was younger, still in my eighties, vanity would have had me believe him. Now I recognize such comments as kindly expressions of surprise I’m still alive.” “I see it as it was the morning we waved Alfred off to war. Strings of paper triangles, red and blue, flirting with the breeze, children racing up and down, weaving in and out, blowing tin whistles and waving Union Jacks. Young men – such young men- starched and eager in their new uniforms and clean boots.