Book Review: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Title: The House at Riverton
Author: Kate Morton
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: Last November I had a nightmare.

The House at Riverton is the story of Grace, a young girl who comes to Riverton to work as a housemaid at the age of 14. She arrives right before the dawn of World War I, and her life becomes inextricably linked to the Hartford family, and especially the two granddaughters, Hannah and Emmeline. Grace is the same age as Hannah, and the two girls grow up together through the turbulent war years and the changes that are forced upon the aristocracy.

At the age of 98, Grace begins to look back at her years at Riverton and then as a lady’s maid to Hannah, ready to examine the memories and the guilt that is associated with them. Perhaps in reliving her story, she will come to a measure of peace.

As I was reading The House at Riverton, I was continually reminded of Brideshead Revisited, and wasn’t surprised to see Kate Morton list Evelyn Waugh as an influence in her aknowledgements. Like Waugh’s novel, The House at Riverton deals with a time in Britain’s history when the world was changing. The aristocracy and upper class were steeped in tradition and propriety, and when war dawned and changed society, and especially the younger generations, they weren’t prepared to change with the times.

There is a mystery at the heart of this book, a secret, and it is unwrapped slowly and carefully, each clue placed at just the right moment to remind you that something is coming. I was caught up in the story of Grace and the two Hartford sisters, and although I wanted to know the secret, I wanted to savor the story. When the mystery was finally revealed, it was much different than I had expected, even though Morton had artfully planted hints along the way. I love a book with a twist at the end – especially when I don’t see it coming.

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18 Responses to Book Review: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

  1. Kailana says:

    After really enjoying The Forgotten Garden in 2010, I am looking forward to reading this book at some point.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kelly- When I read this one, I thought that I should seek out more of her work, but I haven’t done it yet.

  2. Misha Mathew says:

    The House at Riverton is my favourite Kate Morton book ! All her books are so gripping! Have you read her latest, The Distant Hours?

  3. I’ve been really excited about this book and your review makes me even more so.

  4. Stephanie says:

    I bought this one last month and can’t wait to read it, especially now that I know about the Evelyn Waugh angle.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Stephanie – I need to read more Waugh, too – Brideshead is the only one I’ve read so far.

  5. Beth Hoffman says:

    I read this book last year and really enjoyed it. Terrific review, Carrie!

  6. Rebecca Rasmussen
    Twitter: thebirdsistersgmail.com
    says:

    I still haven’t read this book — it’s like I just can’t keep it on my mind for some reason, though I LOVE Evelyn Waugh, so this should be wonderful for me. Time to motivate my brain 🙂

  7. Marg
    Twitter: MargReads
    says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and The Forgotten Garden, but wasn’t quite so enamoured of the new book. Oh well!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Marg – that’s interesting – I’ve seen raves about the newest one. Makes me want to read it more to see who I agree with! 🙂

  8. Kathleen says:

    I have this one already an am looking forward to reading it even more now that I’ve read your review. I can’t resist a book with a good and unexpected twist at the end.

  9. Tracey
    Twitter: My4Bucks
    says:

    I absolutely loved this book too, and also gave it 4 stars. I’m a huge fan of Kate Morton, although I haven’t read Brideshead Revisited. After reading your review, I think I might have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Tracey -I’m glad you enjoyed this one! If you like audiobooks, Brideshead Revisited is amazing on audio – read by Jeremy Irons. 🙂