The House at Riverton is Kate Morton's first published book; it has an old-world charm reminiscent of Ian McEwan's Atonement. Like Atonement, it is a grand love story fraught with pain and disillusionment; it's also set in the first half of the twentieth century with WWI in the background (Atonement coincided with WWII). The grand house which is the center of everything is Riverton Manor and the story is told in the present by 98-year-old Grace Bradley who was a maid at Riverton in her youth.
While she worked at Riverton, Grace was friends with the three children who lived in the house—David, Hannah and Emmeline. Grace found herself feeling very close to these children for reasons she couldn't explain, but which we discover later in the book—Grace was actually their half-sibling. As the children grew up, one of David's friends, Robbie Hunter entered the picture. In the beginning, it was Emmeline who had a crush on him and not Hannah. However, after WWI, when Robbie returned from the trenches, he found that Hannah was in an unhappy marriage and, using Emmeline as an excuse for visiting the sisters, he began a relationship with Hannah.
Things reached such a point that Hannah and Robbie planned to run away together. Grace was privy to a lot of what was going on but she didn't know everything. Due to a misunderstanding, she inadvertently led to a confrontation between the two sisters and Robbie which resulted in Robbie getting shot. After the passage of many years, Grace is contacted by a filmmaker who wants to document what really happened and this gives Grace a chance to unburden herself.
This is a gripping and nostalgic drama which really invokes the period, in addition to creating a striking set of characters who are each experiencing their own set of emotional ups and downs. Even though they're all connected to the action of the story, you get the sense that each one of them is alone. The tug of war caused by wanting to be with someone and keeping secrets from them is what drives the action further. Even if love doesn't triumph in the end, you're left with the impression that this was a grand love story.
Kate Morton is an Australian author who has published four books. She is the oldest of three sisters and her family moved around quite a bit before settling in Tamborine Mountain. She graduated with an English Literature degree from the University of Queensland and then did a Master's focusing on tragedy in Victorian Literature. She lives in a suburb of Brisbane with her husband and two children. The House at Riverton was a Times #1 bestseller in the UK and a New York Times bestseller in the US.
Summer 1924: On the eve of a glittering Society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.
Winter 1999: Grace Bradley, 98, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet's suicide. Ghosts awaken, and memories, long consigned to the dark reaches of Grace's mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge, something history has forgotten but Grace never could.
Set as the war-shattered Edwardian summer surrenders to the decadent twenties, The House at Riverton is a thrilling mystery and a compelling love story.
An alternate title for this novel is The Shifting Fog. Download and start listening now!