As “The House at Riverton” opens, we meet Grace, a 98 year old living in a nursing home. A young American filmmaker comes to visit Grace and asks for her first-hand account of the controversial events that took place at the home in 1924. Grace is the only person still living that was there. Grace’s mind suddenly floods with long-buried memories, and Grace takes us back to Riverton House and its secrets.
Grace Bradley, 14, went to work for Lord Ashbury and his family at Riverton as a naïve, young girl. She worked hard, learned the ways of a housemaid and knew her place in the running of the home. Grace is enamored with Lord Ashbury’s grandchildren, David, Hannah and Emmeline, from the very beginning, and she felt a strong connection with Hannah, especially.
Riverton was an Edwardian aristocratic home - rich with a past and a great family that dated back decades in England’s history. Today, however, Riverton is most notably known for the events that took place there in the summer of 1924. During a society party held at the home, a promising, young poet, R.S. Hunter, commits suicide. With only Hannah, Emmeline and Grace as witnesses, the truth of what happened that night by the lake, and why the sisters never spoke again, has become a thing of legend - a legend that is now being made into a movie.
Grace hints throughout the novel that no one knows the real truth about what happened that summer night. As she takes us back to the beginning, and tells the story of Hannah’s longing to have her own life, and Emmeline’s jealousy and competition with her older sister, the truth of the poet’s death is slowly revealed. Grace’s narration is to the point and intriguing. You know there’s much more to the story that what has ever been told before. Grace slowly reveals a past that still haunts her to this day.
“The House at Riverton” is a book full of secrets that aren’t revealed to the very last page, and the story closes with a satisfying emotional punch.
This was Morton’s first novel, and she definitely has the gift of storytelling. With a riveting plot, “The House at Riverton” is a wonderful blend of mystery, romance and English history. Morton’s sophomore novel, “The Forgotten Garden,” is definitely high on my wish list of books.
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