Tuesday, August 3, 2010
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
The House at Riverton is a mystery novel -- although it teems with history and is certainly more than a mystery -- and because it is a mystery novel I find it especially hard to review. I'm a big believer in not spoiling secrets in books, especially when I want everyone to run out and read the book straightaway. So instead of divulging the plot I'll tell you that Kate Morton is a brilliant writer. BRILLIANT!
Morton succeeds in writing a ripping good story filled with death, secrets, unspoken desires, jealousy, and greed. In addition, each character is expertly fleshed out: each character is realistic, flawed, vulnerable. Not only does Morton have a great story with believable characters but her historical accuracy is dead one -- the characters deal with generational rifts between late Victorians and the roaring twenties, World War I impacts every character intensely, the women seek to find a place of equality in a changing world, the middle class is rising and the importance of the landed gentry diminishing, and there is the ever fascinating upstairs-downstairs drama at play. If this wasn't enough to entice you to read The House of Riverton, let me also point out that Morton excels at the difficult task of writing from different points in time. We have the perspective of young Grace (a maid and the novel's narrator) and an older Grace (a retired archaeologist who is slowly declining). The story weaves in and out of time, but with no confusion or sloppiness.
I really enjoyed The House at Riverton and am dying to find and devour her other novel The Forgotten Garden. The story will nab your attention, but the excellent writing is what makes this book a memorable read.