The House at Riverton

The House At Riverton - Kate Morton Kate Morton specializes in memories... in secrets... in showing us the lives of people in days-gone-by. In The House at Riverton, she tells the story and the secrets of an English manor and the Hartford family in the early 1900s and until after WWI.At 98, Grace is living in a nursing home. But when she discovers a movie is being made about the house at Riverton -- a movie about that fateful night when a famous British poet shot himself at a house party... the poet supposedly engaged to one sister and the lover of the other sister... memories begin to surface. Secrets that she's kept for so long can no longer be forced down; they must be told. But to whom? And so the tale weaves back and forth, between Grace's life in service at the house at Riverton to the Hartford family then (early 1900s to just after WWI) to the present, where she's living in a nursing home. She started her life in service to the family at 14 and quickly became fascinated with the family and especially the children of the 2nd son: David, Hannah, and Emmaline.Grace grew up with secrets in her house -- who her father is and why her mother never speaks of him. She finds herself part of the household family and quite content. Until WWI comes along, and changes everything. David enlists against his father's wishes and rushes off to France with his school chum, Robby Hunt. The Hartford family loses the eldest son, a decorated Boar war hero, to the war, and shortly after, the patriarch dies of a broken heart. The 2nd son, Frederick, is now the heir without an heir. And Frederick's heart never quite seems to be in anything as he dabbles in everything. When the family is in danger of losing everything, Frederick turns to "new money" bankers, only to discover that the bankers wish him to sell. Hannah, caught between wanting to be independent and wanting to help her family, convinces herself that she can gain what she wants by marrying Teddy, the banker's son. And for a time, she's content, and Grace is content as her lady's maid. Except that Robby Hunt comes back into their lives, and it seems tragedy won't let the Hartford family alone.I enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as I did The Forgotten Garden. While friends who read this book first, said they prefer it to other Morton tales. So perhaps it's the 1st Morton book that you read that stays with you?Grace is a wonderful character -- so naive, so trusting, and so much a part of her time. I love her contrasting herself as a young girl in service and Sylvia, one of the nurses' aides in her nursing home. It does seem almost shocking to realize what it was like to be "in service" in the day... perhaps that's why we're so fascinated with watching and reading the dramas of the Upstairs/Downstairs crowd -- it's so much unlike our own.I did feel as if the narrative wandered a bit and included more than was necessary. It might shock Grace to figure out who her father is, but the reader has known for some time. Some of the details about banking and Frederick's business... the family... seemed not to matter very much. They felt like delaying tactics to prevent us from rushing into the heart of the story.And some pieces never did quite make sense, like Marcus, Grace's grandson. It makes sense why Grace wants to tell Marcus her story, but what is Marcus' story? What takes Grace so long to figure out who Ursula is? Does Ursula ever really know the truth - does Marcus ever share it? He says he's writing a book, but... And WHY does Hannah write THE MOST IMPORTANT NOTE to Grace in shorthand, when she knows that Grace doesn't know shorthand? Is she assuming that Grace won't open Emmaline's letter? That it will take Grace time to find someone to read shorthand? Is that what she's counting on?Lovely, bittersweet tale of love, longing, and loss.