The House at Riverton – Kate Morton
Never again will I take the piss out of Richard and Judy. Although I’m pretty sure it’s not actually them who choose the books that are in their “club” – I’ve so far enjoyed every one, and none more than this. The House at Riverton is the tale of Grace, a lower class girl that goes into service at Riverton Manor, serving the grand family that live there, the Hartfords. But Grace never feels quite the same as all the other servants. Though she is careful to remember her place, she feels somehow close to the Hartford children, Hannah in particular. She can never explain why, but as she grows older, she sees changes in the children and the family and begins to think there is something amiss.
World War I brings much grief to the family, and to Grace herself. After these events, life at Riverton Manor changes forever. The family grows up, but Grace remains amongst them, eventually becoming lady’s maid to Hannah when she is married. They become closer still, so much so that Grace is in Hannah’s confidence as she begins an illicit love affair with a poet who was once a friend of her brother, David Hartford. Hannah and Robbie Hunter fall deeply in love – and he wants to her to run away with him. Fearing the aftermath, Hannah refuses, but her resolve becomes weaker and weaker.
Hannah and her younger sister Emmeline grow apart as they get older, due to Hannah being married and “boring” and Emmeline throws herself into the London social scene. But they do have something in common – they are both in love with Robbie Hunter. It is a vicious love triangle, as Robbie can never have Hannah as she is married, and he does not want Emmeline. Things eventually come to a head at a grand party thrown at Riverton Manor – and Robbie commits suicide… or does he?
The story is all told through Grace, and things she has seen and heard throughout her lifetime. She is now a very old woman, recounting her past in order to help a young film director who is making a film about the death of R.S. Hunter. She never thought she would divulge the secrets, thought she would take them to her grave. But she realises she will be helping more than one person by telling the truth. So out come all the secrets and lies of the Hartford family – all gone, but not forgotten.
This is a wonderful book. I was absorbed right from the beginning, trying to guess how all the different happenings would add up the suicide of a poet. Many subplots were woven in, but effortlessly. The whole novel was totally intriguing, and after all that tension, the ending certainly wasn’t a disappointment. Lies and scandal galore in this gem of a book. I’d recommend this to anybody who loves reading.