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
This is my first review and I don't like reading long reviews, so this will be very brief. The writing style is classy, the story and characters drag you into their world so you don't want to stop listening. You may think you know, but you don't know how it will end until the very end. All in all a very tight story, classic mystery setting, believable characters and compelling pace. (and it was on SALE!)
This is one of the best books I have listened to (or read) in a very long time. I had a tough time getting into this book and found the narration to be monotonous at first. However, once I started to understand the connections and relationships between all of the characters, I couldn't stop listening! When I finished the book, I felt positively breathless and couldn't wait to recommend it to others. I have not been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it yesterday. The only reason that I rated this book at 4 stars is because it was a little difficult to get in to. I would have rated it 4.95 stars if it were possible!
I can see this being too slow for people who are only looking for the solving of the mystery at the end, but this is a beautiful book with incredible historical and personal details. If you are prepared to enjoy the journey and the stories of the lives involved, this book is well worth reading and the ending makes it very complete.
The first third of the book is spent with little movement, setting up the settings and the era and the main characters, and it maybe could have been handled better. It drags early on, and some of the prose reaches too far.
About a third of the way through, the central mystery and conflicts begin to take hold, and while it is never a thriller, the characters and settings begin to have something to do, and you begin to care what happens next. The setup pays off as the tapestry of the novel flows from lordly manors to wealthy London houses, from traditional ideas of class to progressive struggles with early 20th century feminism and the labor movement. The setting never overtakes the characters, but complements them and defines them as they pull through the conflicts of the book.
By the end I was completely engaged, unable to put the book down. It's probably not for everyone, but it's an effective period piece with an intriguing mystery and vivid characters, and the reader is tremendous. Well worth it.
I also think this is one of the best books I've heard. The characters are fascinating. You aren't really drawn in by a plot, but by the very human relating and foilables, such as we all have. I'd say the main theme is how such little deceptions cause such major events in life. There is suspense about how it all happened and the flash back from old age is done remarkably well. The reader has such a colorful voice. The little characteristics of her words become very special in her telling of the story. I'd give more than 5 stars if I could!
My first experience with Kate Morton was The Forgotten Garden (WONDERFUL), so I thought I would give The Shifting Fog, A.K.A. The House at Riverton, a try. I really enjoyed it, and I loved the fact it was told through the eyes of Grace, although you dont really know what part Grace plays in the story at beginning. But true to Kate Morton, there are lots of twists and turns and just when you think you know what is going to happen, you find out you were not quite right. If youre an avid reader (listener) like me, that is quite a feat, to surprise me in the slightest. The narration is done by Caroline Lee, the same as in the Forgotten Garden, in which she was great, and she is good in this, but the Australian accent doesnt quite fit sometimes.
I would say this is definitely a credit worthy listen, and I will go back and listen to it again. I definitely recommend it.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
This story is for those who love the multi-episode Masterpiece Theater British Empire stories with large casts of upper and working class characters. Readers who become impatient with long detailed descriptions of people, landscapes or locations will not do well with this book. The plot does unfold methodically with clues sprinkled throughout hinting at future events. I love that kind of story telling if the narrative is well written, and in this case it was very well written indeed. I loved the insights into the downstairs staff, the pre and post WWI society, and came to love all of the main players. For me, any of my credits are an investment of time and attention. This was a well spent credit.
A finely detailed novel told from the present by the central character with long flashbacks to the time of the events. This was done so well it actually added to the understanding of the story. This is not a "quick" read but a delicious view of English life at the finish of WWI and the early 1920s.
The further I got into the story the more I felt as though I was living at the same time with the characters. It was uncanny. You began to understand the impact of the social mores of the time and the clashing changes brought about by the war.
Initially I found the narrator a bit difficult to follow so far as which character was which. However, once you get the relationships and such straight, the narrator does a great job of putting you in the middle of the story. I was sorry to have it end and would have loved to hear even more about the central character's life. I'd even like to re-listen to see which bits I overlooked that might have foreshadowed the various events.
If you are into unabridged, thoroughly detailed novels this is definitely for you!
Oh my goodness, so many people liked this book - I really wanted to like it too! However I found it painfully slow! The choice of an Australian narrator ruined this book for me. It is set in England, the characters should be English!
I hoped this book would be engaging, instead listening it was a chore, my mind wandered and became easily distracted. I managed to listen to it and rewind and listen to it again, for 4 hours. I hate to waste my audible credits; each one is precious so I wish I had not bought this book.
Looking over previous reviews people seem to love it or hate it. I hope you love it but I didn’t.
This is one of the best. I thought the narration was wonderful and suited the plot and the characters very well. I was disappointed to reach the end and look forward to more by this author.
"Your headphones will be glued to your ears!"
In the genre of romantic and nostalgic love stories this book is one of the best I have ever read because it is written with much subtlety and fine nuances: we learn a great deal about the psychological interchange between the old and the young; what life was really like before and after WW I; the contrasting viewpoints of Grace, the young and Grace, the old narrator; well-drawn portraits of several servants with very differing viewpoints; striking depictions of the two sisters around whom the riveting plot develops.
Unlike in the superficial romantic love stories, there are not many happy endings in this novel. The story could really have happened. It is very life-like and full of irony.
And finally to the audio rendition by Caroline Lee: Australian twang? Yes, a little bit, but not to the extent that it would detract from the fact that she is a brilliant, sophisticated reader who draws you into the story immediately and holds your attention the whole time. I hope I'll find other books on Audible read by her.
"Its a bit Upstairs Downstairs"
Upstairs Downstairs with an Australian twang from the narrator. I enjoyed this book, but I felt the characters lacked depth - Grace in her 90's reflects on her life as a young servant and the events that took place ......... I wanted to know the older Graces perspective on things. What in her latter years did she think about the hierarchy in which she had grown up, what did she think of the poverty, the inequality and injustice......... but the story is told 'as was' with little reflective analysis which unfortunately makes her and the other characters seem one dimensional.
"Enjoyable and engaging"
I really enjoyed this story, old Grace's descriptions of life in service and her relationships with those upstairs blended well with young Grace's innocence and naivety and I found the switching between past and present engaging. I cared about the outcome for old Grace just as much as I was interested in her story of the past. As the story unfolded I found I couldn't wait to plug my earphones in and listen to the next chapters. I did find the Australian narrator's attempts at the Essex accent a little bit annoying at times and I would have preferred an English narrator but not so much to distract from the story.
"Story bogged down with superfluous detail"
I enjoyed the author's book The Secret Keeper but was very disappointed by the House at Riverton. It badly needed editing to remove the masses of details that swamp a story of upstairs/downstairs life before, during and after the First World War told in retrospect by an elderly former maid of the house at Riverton. The author has evidently done a lot of background research but unfortunately felt the need to incorporate too much of it into her narrative. For example, a conversation between two lovers has digressions into tug boats on the Thames, allusions to the coal industry and to painters of the time. I didn't need to know the detailed descriptions of decor, the clothes and hairstyle of a transient character never heard of again or learn what a person was doing with her knife and fork. I wished the author would get on with the story without all this descriptive baggage. A story that wasn't original or powerful enough to merit over 18 hours of listening.
The writing is overly descriptive: "as if" and "like" appear frequently leaving little to the listener/reader's imagination. I can imagine someone smiling without a sunbeam glancing on their cheek for emphasis. Despite a surfeit of description the characters are 2-dimensional stereotypes: obsequious servants and demanding masters.
I wouldn't have continued if I had been reading the book but I like to have a voice for company when I'm out walking or doing housework and if my mind wandered I didn't miss much.
The reader is very good and injected more life into the characters than the author.
This book has divided opinion and, to be fair more like it than dislike it, but if you prefer a story to have some pace I'd advise you to avoid this book.
Fantastically captures 30s spirit and truly unputdownable. Can't recommend enough.
"An inviting dip into the past"
A strong flowing narrative which captured and held my attention. Each day I found myself looking forward to an enjoyable and colourful escape to the past and the events before, during and after the great war. The links between past and present work well as the elderly Grace slowly reveals her story. The ending is perhaps a little predictable but doesn?t detract from a satisfying tale. And this Australian thought the Australian narrator was clear and easy to listen to.
"A beautifully crafted story"
This is a story that wends its way back and forwards though time gradually giving you the answers to build up the full picture of the situation at the time. It is very atmospheric and is hard to stop listening to!
I didn't give it 5 stars purely because of the narrator, who doesn't seem to be able to get to grips with different accents , resulting in many of the characters seeming to speak with an Australian accent, especially the servants. I have noticed this before with this narrator and I find it brings me back to reality when I am immersed in the book.
This is a great book and one that is easy to get into and addictive to the end!
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