Summer 1924: On the eve of a glittering Society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.
Winter 1999: Grace Bradley, 98, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet's suicide. Ghosts awaken, and memories, long consigned to the dark reaches of Grace's mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge, something history has forgotten but Grace never could.
Set as the war-shattered Edwardian summer surrenders to the decadent twenties, The House at Riverton is a thrilling mystery and a compelling love story.
An alternate title for this novel is The Shifting Fog.
©2006 Kate Morton; (P)2006 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
I loved the mystery.
I am not really sure.
I am not really sure.
I am not really sure
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This is a book with 2 titles “House at Riverton” and “Shifting Fog”… I never really understood the point of that. Different titles for different audiences in different countries?? Whatever.
It’s is the 3rd Kate Morton book I’ve read and just like the other 2 (“The Distant Hours” and “The Forgotten Garden”), this one was wonderful. If you forced me to rank them, I’d rank this one third, but it’s splitting hairs since they’ve all been reliably good reads.
They are somewhat formulaic and since this is my third time around I was able to guess the outcome of certain things and predict others so I was not really on the edge of my seat like I was when I read my first Morton Book, but it didn’t reduce my enjoyment at all.
I used to see books that follow the same formula over and over again as a bad thing, but these books have changed my mind. You know in advance you’ll like it and they are still different enough in the details so stories are always interesting; if you like the formula then it’s GREAT!
Looking forward to “The Secret Keeper” whenever it becomes available in Audible.
Likes: Cozy mysteries (cats a plus), personal memoirs,not too dark fantasy, books about the brain. Dislikes: Torture, animal cruelty.
The Shifting Fog (aka The House at Riverton - which I actually think is a better title) can be a challenging read. I could not wait to be done with book. I wanted to know what happened but also the scope of the story is so vast and the pace at which it unravels so slow that getting through it was tough at times.
I love the way in the beginning of the book we see Riverton Manor as it is now - a house open to the public for tours of the gardens - and how this contrasts with the real Riverton as it was, and how in one person's lifetime that shift can take place. I also love deep dark secrets that could make two sisters never speak again - I have to know those! That said though, Grace lived a long time, and 98 years is a lot to get through. In fact I am not sure why the author chose to make her that old. The action that we are trying to get through really covers 10 years relatively early in Grace's life. Sure I am interested in what happens to her afterwards because as a servant she didn't have all that much of a life while at Riverton - she really was concerned more with the lives of the family there.
Anyway, we go back and forth in time a lot from the present day to Grace's days as a house maid then a ladies maid. The details we learn, gradually, about Grace's post-service life all come in dribs and drabs from her reflections in the present. Grace is in a nursing home and some of the present day parts are hard to muddle through more I suppose because the author does a great job of communicating how debilitating and crappy it is to get really old. I feel Grace's fatigue and that only makes it harder for me to drag myself through her memories. I also feel like being so close to the end of things she should hurry up and spit the story out before it is too late. And I also don't always like Grace. Usually I do. I liked her when she was a young girl - but we do find out some things - particularly in Grace's attitude towards her daughter that I didn't like. Grace herself was an unwanted child - her mother's pregnancy causing her to lose her job at Riverton and Grace's mother was a bitter woman who liked to remind Grace how lucky she was to have been kept at all. With this in her past I expected Grace to go into parenthood with a better attitude than she did. That is my issue though I suppose. I dislike people who do things that they of all people should know better that to do. Child abuse victims who abuse their own kids for example. That annoys me. Not that I much cared for Grace's daughter - who Grace describes as a person whose sense of humor was always lacking but by now had ceased to exist entirely or something to that effect. It was a great quote but I don’t remember it exactly. Anyway I guess from watching proper timid Grace that I assumed she'd have grown into a different woman than she did.
Seems to me parts of her life are rather sad. Additionally the story manages to convey a sense of inevitable impending doom. We the listeners can so clearly see disaster coming that sometimes it is depressing. The book has a depressing sort of "end of an age" feel but it is more than that. More like how we can see Hannah and Emmeline as children and know that their personalities will lead them down paths that will not make them happy. I am not sure why that is. Perhaps it was just the time into which they were born. Had such people been born today I don't think they would have been doomed. Hannah is a headstrong intelligent girl. Emmeline a needy, jealous beauty.
Despite knowing that Hannah's feminist attitudes would bring her grief in one way or another, I still got annoyed at Grace's subservient attitude at times. (Again, my issue.) On several occasions Grace has important plans that she won't tell anyone about and they keep getting ruined because Grace is suddenly "needed by her mistress". I got so annoyed at her. What does all this devotion buy her anyway? The other annoying thing about servants is listening to their dialogue. I would estimate that half of Grace's spoken dialogue is simply, "Yes, Miss." The variety of things one can say "Yes, Miss" to amazes me. I am also amazed by the fact people still feel compelled to talk to you at all if all you ever say is, "Yes, Miss."
I liked the narration very much most of the time. I see some people objected to the narrator’s English accent but it sounded ok to me. The only part of the narration that I didn't like was the American (Texan?) accents. Those were pretty tacky sounding.
The book highlights the change that takes place in English society in a relatively short period of time. When Hannah makes her debut into society, parties are chaperoned, women are held to very strict standards of behavior, marriage is spoken of right away. By the time Emmeline comes of age, a mere 4 years later, women go out all night partying with the guys, drinking and what have you. It just seems such a huge change of (some would say disintegration of) society
When I finished The Shifting Fog I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I am glad I forced myself to see how it ended since I got both something I expected and something I did not. One thing that was tough about the book is that as I think I mention elsewhere, it covers a lot of ground and as such provides so much opportunity for things to go wrong. At one point I thought they should maybe rename it again to "All the things that can go wrong for you and your loved ones if you live to be 98 years old" - although I suppose that is a tad cumbersome. And I did get that huge tragic thing, the one that you can see legitimately serving as a source of torment for the rest of someone's life. In that respect it reminded me of The Thirteenth Tale although I have to say that book is without equal in my experience for the punch-you-in-the-stomach-tragic-twist. This one was more predictable and therefore less powerful. However the other thing I got was unexpected and delightful - a positive twist that made you less mad at Grace for her choices in life.
Caroline Lee's narration did nothing for me, so I stopped listening.
Rumors Of War
Younger sounding voice?
I was disappointed.
I wish I could get a refund.
Enjoying one good listen after the next!
The Servants serving the Privileged. You know the rules: total separation is demanded, but of course, in this story some of them surreptitiously intermingle. . . and this is the gist of the story of two generations of Servants and the Served that seems to take forever to tell. I really wanted to LOVE this book, but in the end, found that I barely LIKED it. . . finding much of the elaborate detailing of the author to be boring and burdensome. It was a looooooooong story that took forever to draw to a close. The ending, however, was the best part and well worth hanging in there to experience. Numerous twists and turns about that aforementioned intermingling made this story interesting and kept me on board through the final words. On the totally plus side, the narration was excellent -- a very pleasing voice throughout.
No. But it has turned me off Kate Morton
The narrator was excellent
Someone who wants to fall asleep.
Not that I found. Never made it to second part.
This is a boring, hard (if not impossible) book to get into and the narration matches. Soft, slow, mind numbing.
Learning to Love Loves Labours Lost
I don't for a minute believe that a first person narrative character with so little understanding of human behavior and basic, universal driving forces could make it through grad school, let alone become a preeminent archaeologist, a science that relies heavily on instincts for why people tend to do the things they do. How many times did I hear her say, in effect, "If only I had known that..." Yeah, honey, (I kept thinking, and even said out loud a few times), and you are the only moron on the planet who wouldn't have picked up on that. Who but a gatepost could have figured out that motive????" I've never found myself so utterly irritated by a character's basic cluelessness that I struggled with myself over whether or not to finish the book. How disappointing. This is one of those books that tells you on the first page that characters die on the last page...and why not? They're obviously too stupid to live. Fictional Darwinism at its most tedious.
A story so obvious to all but the most emotionally handicapped that I just wanted to bang my head against the wall. Truly, I do hate to offer up such a negative review, but is this all you've got, Ms. Morton? Really? This is the very best story you've got in your head???
An older actress (the lead character IS in her 90s for a big chunk of the book, after all) with a less "PEHHHHHHFECTLY" affected British accent and a bit more dexterity of characterization. She's got three voices, and I was frankly tired of each of them by the end of chapter one. A family member in another room of my house actually came in to ask me how much longer the book was, as the narrator's voice was getting on his last damned nerve. When I told him, he cranked up the Led Zeppelin and told me to call him when it was safe to come out.
Frustrated sarcasm. Bleh. "Drone, whine, whine, drone...everybody's life was just so PEHHHHHHFECTLY beastly after the war, and the rich were all so PEHHHHHHFECTLY self-centered in the '20s"...somebody just shoot me. Downton Abbey this ain't.
How I do hate stories that threaten to go someplace interesting, only to sit there with the plot construction of a first year composition student's not-very-best effort. I just want to break out a copy of The Great Gatsby and thank God fasting for F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I liked The House at Riverton, but wouldn't recommend it to others. I felt its portrayal of the period was not great, and I sometimes became impatient with the heroine. I much prefer many other books written about the World War I period and the time "between the wars," that are much more evocative of the massive cultural changes that took place after World War I, particularly in England.
I am a particular fan of the Maisie Dobbs series, which begins before World War I but proceeds through the war and then wonderfully portrays stories that bring the post-war period and the 20's to vivid life.
I did think the narrator of The House at Riverton did an excellent job with all of the different characters and did not note that her accent was "Australian," as a number of reviewers have complained.
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