“I am interested–intrigued even–by the way time erases real lives, leaving only vague imprints. Blood and spirit fade away so that only the names and dates remain…But of course, those who live in memories are never really dead.”
Kate Morton, THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON
THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON by Kate Morton is 468 pages and was published in 2006. I bought it because I adored Morton’s other books, THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN and THE DISTANT HOURS. This is her first novel, and I loved it every bit as much as the others.
Grace Bradley, a woman in her nineties at a nursing home, is approached by a film director making a movie about Riverton House: the place where Grace was a servant in the early nineteen hundreds for the Hartford family. Visits from actors, old photographs, studio stages, and finally, the house itself reawaken memories Grace has buried for decades. As she nears the end of her life, she forces herself to confront her past and what happened on that fateful night when the Hartford family legacy was forever stained.
Grace begins her service with the Hartford family as a young girl at the urging of her mother. The lives of the servants at Riverton are every bit as dramatic and intriguing as the lives of the wealthy family that owns the home, and their loyalty is largely unparalleled.
Siblings Hannah, Emmeline, and David are the lifeblood of the home, and their relationships, secrets, and games entrance Grace while stirring her envy and admiration. Hannah takes the most notice of the young serving girl, and as time progresses, cultivates a relationship with her of extreme trust and dependence.
As the war comes and takes the men in body and in spirit, the Hartford siblings become scattered and lost. Hannah and Emmeline long for independence and take different steps to obtain it–steps that have terrible and far reaching consequences.
Morton’s strengths are in her deft rendering of intimate friendships and complexities of plot. Story lines are woven through time, space, and character with facility. She is a master of suspense, and even when some stories can be guessed, others come as a complete surprise. All three of Morton’s novels have kept me entertained throughout and satisfied upon their conclusion.
Morton has established herself as one of the great literary gothic writers of our time. I recommend her books easily to those who enjoy all kinds of novels from historical, to suspense, to romance. She has elements of all genres in her works, and the beautiful prose to make her work timeless.
Have you read any of Morton’s novels? Which is your favorite? I’d be hard pressed to choose, but if I had to, I’d pick THE DISTANT HOURS.