Book Review: The House at Riverton

The House at Riverton

by Kate Morton

The House at Riverton I really wanted to like this book more than I did. Having marathoned through 3 seasons of Downton Abbey awhile back, I was ready for more period drama with an upstairs/downstairs angle. And The House at Riverton did have that. But the manner of the storytelling meant you didn’t really get to know either set well. The story is told through the eyes of Grace, once a housemaid at the grand house and now declining in a nursing home in her old age. But the main drama of the story centers around the two Hartford sisters and their family, whom Grace served. Grace does talk about herself some, but she’s mostly focused on the Hartfords, which means we don’t get to know her really all that well. In the bits set in the present time, Grace is recounting the story into a tape recorder for her grandson Max, because apparently they have some deep connection, though we are just told this rather than shown, and it’s never clear why she’s doing this. The subject of her stories, Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, are also distant, since it’s being recounted by a 3rd party (Grace). It’s one of those instances where the framing of the narrative really does it a disservice, because it could’ve been a much more compelling story. If you’re a fan of historical fiction a la Downtown and can bear with the unnecessary jumps between past and present and characters you never fully connect with, it’s a decent read.

I give it 3/5 stars.

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