Final read-along discussion: The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

Title: The House at Tyneford
Author: Natasha Solomons
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Plume
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: When I close my eyes I see Tyneford House.

Welcome to our final read-along discussion of The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons. (Read our previous discussions: part one, part two, and part three.) Spoiler warning: We will be discussing the The House at Tyneford in detail, both in this post and the comments section.

Wow! First, let me acknowledge that I was wrong in the prediction I made in the third discussion post – at least, in part. I was not surprised that Mr. Rivers and Elise ended up together – but I was surprised that they actually got married and made it last until their old age. I wasn’t bothered by the age difference, especially because of the way they were thrown together. Elise lost yer youth and innocence very quickly in the face of the war, and their common grief forged a bond that was stronger than the one that Elise and Kit had.

As you can see from my 5-star rating above, I thoroughly loved this book. I know that the character of Elise was divisive, with some people really disliking her, but I liked her character. I understood why she was a bit spoiled at the beginning, and the source of some of her poor decisions. And yet, she showed a strength and determination – in her own will to survive and her hope to bring her parents to Tyneford – that I couldn’t help but admire.

After I finished the book, I was perusing the author’s web site and came across some reading group questions. I thought I would post those for our final discussion. Feel free to either answer these questions, write your own thoughts, or write a review to wrap things up – just be sure to leave a link in the comments section below. And thank you so much for reading along with me – it made the experience more rewarding than it would have been if I’d read on my own.

What is your opinion of where Mr. Rivers and Elise’s relationship ends up?
I already answered that one above.

As you see it, what events led to Tyneford’s fate?
One of the scenes that impacted me emotionally was when Mr. Wrexham tells Elise that she still has her job, even after the crazy stunt she pulled at Kit’s birthday party. Wrexham tells her that she will be the downfall of Tyneford. After finishing the book, I don’t believe it was Elise that brought about the end of that way of life, but the war itself. Without the war, Elise would never have been there, they wouldn’t have lost most of the serving staff, Kit wouldn’t have been killed, and they wouldn’t have ultimately lost the house and grounds to the government.

What significance did Tyneford have to Elise, Kit, and Mr. Rivers?
Tyneford seemed like so much more than just a house or piece of property. Because it was secluded on the coast, the whole village was like a country unto itself. In many ways, it was a way of life, a livelihood, and a family. In post-war England, I don’t think it was something that would ever exist again in the same way.

Can a place like Tyneford exist in today’s world?
Oops – already answered that! I will add that I think today’s technology has made everyone so connected with everyone else – and that would make an insular community like Tyneford nearly impossible.

Why do you think the novel in the viola blank?
I have to admit that I am completely stumped on this. The only thing I could think of was that Julian wanted to give Elise something of his that would give her hope, and that was all he could think of. I did really hate the way Margot reacted to Elise after she told her about the novel – and then that the novel was blank. In the face of the war and the loss of their parents, I would think that Margot would have wanted to hold on to the only family she had left. Instead, she let something relatively minor come between them for years and years. All that wasted time makes me sad.

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8 Responses to Final read-along discussion: The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

  1. ChrisCross53 says:

    Perhaps the papers are blank because it is for Elise to make her own life and write her own story.

    I loved this novel (published here in the UK as The Novel in the Viola), and thought it was as much a love affair with a place as a love affair between people. There was an added resonance of sadness and nostalgia given by the knowledge that Tyneford is based on a real house, in a real village, both of which were commandeered by the British armed forces as a kind of training area for practice manoeuvres during WW2, and never given back – apparently the damaged shells of the buildings still stand, and I believe the area is still closed off. Somehow I think this makes Tyneford even more of a lost world: there’s the physical loss of the building, which lives on as a kind of ghost, as well as the loss of the way of life.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      ChrisCross – Yes, I loved that Tyneford itself was as much a character as any of the people in the book. I looked up some of the history of the place the book was based on, and it is very sad. And I like your interpretation of the blank novel – I never thought of it that way. Thanks so much for reading along with us!

  2. Marg
    Twitter: MargReads
    says:

    Thank you Carrie for hosting this readalong!

    My final post is here

  3. Suey
    Twitter: sueysays
    says:

    I too am stumped by the whole novel in the viola thing! But it was a fun touch! :) Loved this book! Thanks for a great read along even though I came late to the game. Here’s the link to my review:

    http://sueysbooks.blogspot.com/2012/04/review-house-at-tyneford-by-natasha.html

  4. irene says:

    I must say I was not surprised by Elise and Mr. Rivers getting together, it always seemed to me he cared for her far more than just a girl in need. Tyneford was a life style indeed, and it certainly would not have been home to them after Kit’s death. The blank pages in the viola, well that was a bit of a shocker, I’m not sure why her dad did that, I thought for sure he would have written his masterpiece and let her keep it safe. It too was a little disturbed by Margot’s reaction to the news, and I agree these were times when one needed the only family they had left. Thank you Carrie for hosting this read a long. I really enjoyed it.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Irene – I’m so glad you read along with me again! I’ve really enjoyed all of our discussions and reading everyone’s posts – and we were so lucky that both read-alongs (this one and The Yellow House) were of such great books. :)

  5. ibeeeg says:

    Mr Rivers and Elise – I like their relationship and felt that they should be together from their first meeting. Frankly, I find him better suited for Elise. He is compassionate and caring and has maturity for which I think Elise needs in order to really thrive. I have no doubts that she loved Kit, but I think that love was immature and probably would not have suited Elise long-term. While I was glad for the relationship, I could not help feel a bit sad with the ending. They seemed to have gelled into a solid trusting and firm relationship. But, did they evolve? Did they have children? Did they lead a life of happiness together? I think they were happy or at least that is what I want to believe.

    I was stumped by the blank pages in the viola. At first, I thought, that over time the words disappeared due to poor quality ink. But, I do like the idea that Elise’s father purposely put blank pages into the viola blank with the intention of giving her hope. I like that idea and am going to go with it.

    Margot’s reaction to the pages was horrid. I could not believe that she would have such a reaction that it would effect her relationship with her sister as it did. It was not of any Elise’s doing but she made it as it were – a betrayal. Frankly, I almost feel that Margot felt betrayed by her parents and thus by Elise since her father gave Elise an incredible token. Very sad.

    As for Tyneford – I loved the place. I felt it was integral to the story and far more so than settings when I typically read. I wish I were able to experience the place as it was in that era. I find it a shame that it came to ruin as it did. I do not believe that a Tyneford could exist today as it did then. As you said Carrie, too much technology now that would not allow for seclusion.

    I did place a post on my blog with my thoughts about the book.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Deanna – I really was bothered a lot by the whole Margot thing – I thought she was just being incredibly spoiled and vindictive in her treatment of her sister. I still get angry when I think of it, and I finished the book over a week ago! I read your beautiful review – thank you so much for reading along with me. It has been so fun to read and know that others were reading along and would be anxious to discuss it with me.