Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rating : 3.0/5
Number of Pages : 599
Reason for Reading : Library Book Discussion Group

Set in two different time periods as narrator Grace Bradley aged 99 in the winter of 1999 remembers her past as a young girl leading up to events in the summer of 1924. Part fiction, part mystery, part love story and part history. Grace tells the storyfor the most part of her life in Riverton Manor where she serves as a maid. She starts at the house just before the First World War breaks out and among the houses guests are Hannah and Emmeline, neices of the current master of the house. Hannah is the same age as Grace and she feels drawn to her and her sister in ways she can't explain. She isn't included in their games with their older brother David being only part of the staff, yet she feels a possessivness about the family.

The two girls are very different in nature. Hannah longs to escape Riverton and see the world, but at the time it wasn't the done thing for woman. She marries in the hope that that will provide her with some degree of freedom, but finds marriage very different to her imaginings. Meanwhile Emmeline is wilder in nature and in contrast does find the freedom Hannah seeks as standards start to change, especially after World War II.

Throughout we are aware that a poet friend of the girls has committed suicide with only the girls as witnesses. Grace hints at many secrets throughout and the story slowly unfolds exposing her secrets as well as finally those of the two sisters. After the tragedy of the death, the sisters never speak to each other again and both die soon after leaving Grace as the only one to pass down her tale. She kept her secrets until the end of her life until a film is made of that fateful night and old long pushed aside thoughts return coinciding with her grandson disappearing after a painful seperation from his wife.

This is an interesting book as it is set very realistically in 1924 and the preceeding years where a number of real characters are referenced yet the main characters are fictional. I did enjoy it, but I found there weren't many surprises and it just isn't the sort of book I would usually choose to read. It looked quite daunting at 599 pages, but passed very quickly, drawing me in to Grace's life and experiences. I have to say I found the present day sections not so nearly as interesting as her memories and actually more depressing as Grace is practically on her deathbed the whole time. It reminded me of The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood which is set in a similar time with two sisters, a loveless marriage for business purposes and a disasterous love affair. I have to say I much preferred Atwood's tale.

Other reviews:
A Garden Carried in the Pocket

4 comments:

Ladytink_534 said...

What a pretty cover! This sounds like a really good story.

DesLily said...

hmmm i have this in my tbr pile and planned to read it for Carl's Halloween challenge.. it's not sounding as good as I had hoped... plus: your cover is WAY nicer than mine! no fair! lol

jenclair said...

I guess I'm going to have to get a copy of The Blind Assassin. Morton mentions it as part of her inspiration for The House at Riverton. I keep saying I'm going to get The Blind Assassin, but so far it just hasn't happened!

Nymeth said...

It sounds like an interesting mix of genres. I really look forward to reading The Blind Assassin later this year.