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Thursday, June 12, 2008

The House at Riverton

Morton, Kate. The House at Riverton.

6 word synopsis: Death of an era. Upstairs, Downstairs.

Coincidentally, as I was reading this, I'd already watched the first disk of Upstairs, Downstairs, the legendary BBC series about an aristocratic family and their servants, which I'm receiving disk by disk from Netflix.

I was also reminded of The Thirteenth Tale and other novels in the modern gothic vein and was delighted that in the Author's Note, Morton listed some of them as part of her inspiration and for further reading: Remains of the Day by Ishiguro, Possession by Byatt, Half-Broken Things by Joss, and a Dark-Adapted Eye by Babara Vine. I enjoyed all of these and plan to locate copies of two others that the author mentioned, but that I've not yet gotten around to reading: The Chatham School Affair by Cook and The Blind Assassin by Atwood.

The story is predominantly set in the early part of the twentieth century, but alternates between that period (when the important events occured) and the latter part of the century. The narrator is Grace Bradley who entered service in 1914 when she was fourteen and end in 1998 when she was 98 - an individual utterly entwined with the century. The novel begins with Grace at 98 as she re-visits her early life during interviews for a movie about the family she served.

Grace's memories, however, continue to push through, becoming more real to her than the present, and a great deal of the story she remembers is never mentioned in the interviews or conversations.

Lots of secrets and a mysterious death in this one. I enjoyed it.

Fiction. Psychological mystery. 2006. 473 pages.


  1. So far, this was one of the best books I've read this year. It too reminded me of The Thirteenth Tale. Haven't read The Remains of the Day, but its definitely on my TBR.

    And great minds must think alike, because I'm in the middle of watching Upstairs, Downstairs, also through Netflix! I've received the first three discs of series 4, which I'm saving for the weekend (PS--Sarah turns out to be quite a naughty girl...).

  2. I'm glad this was a good read! It's in my TBR pile waiting for Carls RIP challenge lol.. I read 13th Tale last year for the challenge and loved it!

  3. I loved Upstairs Downstairs. It was a weekly watch for me while I was growing up. If this book is like the show, I know I will love it. Its now added to my reading list.

  4. I've got this one waiting for me. I think I'm going to like it!

  5. I recently picked up a copy of this one at discount and am looking forward to reading it. Great review, Jenclair.

  6. Any comparison to Thirteenth Tale has me intrigued! Sounds good!

    Oddly enough I was just looking through BBC series the other day and wondered why I had never seen an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs. Hope you let us know what you think of it.

  7. Katherine- Upstairs, Downstairs is/was a fascinating series, and I've really enjoyed watching things progress. The early part of the 20th century still holds a lot of interest for me...and evidently, for you, too!

    DesLily - It isn't quite as buried in secrets as the Thirteenth Tale, but has something of that same gothic influence. I hope you enjoy it when the RIP challenge rolls around!

    SuziQ- I like that it was from the pov of a servant observing her employers and feeling so attached.

    Violette - Upstairs, Downstair is not dated at all! It is difficult to believe that the series was filmed so long ago. And yes, the book examines both the working class and the upper class in a similar way. Hope you like it!

    Iliana - I think you will!

    LF - Thanks!

    Carl - You should like this series very much, Carl. Great characters!

  8. This is on my tbr list and after reading your review, I am moving it up! Your review is great. I am looking forward to your review of Dreamers of the Day.

  9. This was picked as the book to read for the library reading group I am part of. It looks a little daunting as it is quite a big book, but it is great to see you enjoyed it. I am looking forward to starting it next week.

  10. Janet - Hope you like this one. I've got my Dreamers review posted now, too.

    Rhinoa - It did not feel like a long book. Hope you and the review group enjoy it!

  11. I just finished it and you are right, it didn't feel like a long book. Will link to your review when I put mine up.

  12. Rhinoa - I'll be over to check it out!