I want to begin by saying that I loved this book! It was the first of Kate Morton that I have read and now I simply must read all of her other work. The House at Riverton (Atria Books, 2006) was originally published in Australia as The Shifting Fog. Oddly I had read Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin right before this one and found a lot of comparisons in regard to the story structure and content.
The House at Riverton is narrated by Grace, a former servant of the long established home, but the story is really about two sisters, Hannah and Emmeline, and the aristocratic way of life that is vanishing following World War I. Grace is the same age as Hannah and meets the girls, along with their brother David, during their visits to their grandparents at Riverton Manor. Told in two time periods, the reader is first introduced to the elderly Grace, living out her last days in a nursing home. When she is contacted by a film directer creating a movie about the sisters and a mysterious death that occurred at Riverton, the secrets she has kept all her life rise to the surface and she feels the need to release the burden of the truth before her time ends.
She begins to unravel the mysteries that occurred at Riverton by recording the story into a tape recorder for her grandson. The story flows back and forth with Grace's own life as the only connection between the past and the present, revealing the events that shaped and destroyed the lives of those living both upstairs and downstairs. There are numerous themes tackled throughout including the impact of war on soldiers and the divide between the classes. It is the relationship between the siblings that is the driving force of this novel and how their fates are solidified as children in an estate destined to dissolve along with their destinies.
While the story if full of mystery and tragedy, Morton effortlessly infuses the elegance of the time for the privileged aristocratic families. As the cards are displayed one by one, Grace discovers that she is a more prominent character in their play than she could have imagined.
The House at Riverton is a hauntingly beautiful novel that lingers in your thoughts long after the last page and long after the secrets are all told. It is a story that you can't imagine could end any other way but tragically and Morton delivers. Yet through Grace, the reader is left with a quiet peace and a sense of relief that the truth is now free.
To read a bio on the author Kate Morton, visit my Book Beginnings post here.