House at Riverton (Morton)

The House at Riverton
Kate Morton, 2006
Simon & Schuster
496 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781416550532

Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline.

In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they—and Grace—know the truth.

In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace's youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties, and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever.

The novel is full of secrets—some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne Du Maurier. It is also a meditation on memory, the devastation of war, and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history.

Originally published to critical acclaim in Australia, already sold in ten countries and a #1 bestseller in England, The House at Riverton is a vivid, page-turning novel of suspense and passion, with characters-and an ending-the reader won't soon forget. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Berri, South Australia
Education—B.A., and M.A., University of Queensland
• Awards—(see below)
Currently—lives in Australia

Kate Morton is the eldest of three sisters. Her family moved several times before settling on Tamborine Mountain where she attended a small country school. She enjoyed reading books from an early age, her favourites being those by Enid Blyton.

She completed a Licentiate in Speech and in Drama from Trinity College London and then a summer Shakespeare course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Later she earned first-class honours for her English Literature degree at the University of Queensland, during which time she wrote two full-length manuscripts (which are unpublished) before writing the story that would become the 2006 novel The House at Riverton.

Following this she obtained a scholarship and completed a Master's degree focussing on tragedy in Victorian literature. She is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program researching contemporary novels that marry elements of gothic and mystery fiction.

Kate Morton is married to Davin, a jazz musician and composer, and they have two sons.
Works & recognition

Works and recognition
Morton's novels have been published in 38 countries and have sold three million copies.

The House at Riverton was a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2007 and a New York Times bestseller in 2008. It won General Fiction Book of the Year at the 2007 Australian Book Industry Awards, and was nominated for Most Popular Book at the British Book Awards in 2008.

♦ Her second book, The Forgotten Garden, was a #1 bestseller in Australia and a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2008.

♦ In 2010, Morton's third novel, The Distant Hours, was released, followed by her fourth, The Secret Keeper, in 2012. He rmost recent novel, Lake House, came out in 2015. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/23/2015.)

Visit the author's website.

Book Reviews 
This debut page-turner from Australian Morton recounts the crumbling of a prominent British family as seen through the eyes of one of its servants.. Morton triumphs with a riveting plot, a touching but tense love story and a haunting ending.
Publishers Weekly

For decades, Grace Reeves has kept secret the truth of a poet's violent death by the lake at Riverton House in Oxfordshire. Now at the end of her life, 98-year-old Grace's memory is swept back.... Intriguing characters, both past and present, are skillfully drawn to create an enjoyable tale.  —Joy St. John, Henderson Dist. Public .Lib, Nevada
Library Journal

In Australian author Morton's atmospheric first novel, a 98-year-old woman recollects her unwitting role in a fatal deception.... Though the climactic revelation feels contrived, Morton's characters and their predicaments are affecting, and she recreates the period with a sure hand.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions 
1. Do you think of The House at Riverton as a tragic novel? How are the characters' tragic outcomes caused by the incompatibility of what they want and who they are?

2. How important to the novel's outcome is Grace's longing for a sister? When Grace finds out about her true parentage, why does she choose not to tell Hannah? Is it the right decision? Would things have ended differently had she done otherwise?

3. Kate Morton has said that the novel's setting is as important to her as its characters, that Riverton Manor is as much a character of the book as its inhabitants. Do you agree? Does Riverton mirror the fates of the Hartford family and the aristocracy in general? If so, in what ways?

4. The First World War was a catalyst for enormous social and cultural change. Not a character in The House at Riverton is left untouched by this. Whose life is most altered? Why?

5. Is there a heroine inThe House at Riverton? If so, who is it and why?

6. Grace and Robbie are both illegitimate children of upper-class parents; however, their lives and opportunities are vastly different. Why?

7. Duty is very important to the youthful Grace. Did Grace's sense of duty contribute to the novel's conclusion? If so, how? Would things have turned out better for the characters if Grace had made different decisions?

8. One of the main themes of The House at Riverton is the haunting of the present by the past. In what ways does the novel suggest that the past can never be escaped? Do you agree that our pasts are inescapable?

9. Grace has resisted ever telling anyone about the events at Riverton. Why? What makes her change her mind? Is Grace a reliable narrator?Given her motive for recording her memories, can we trust her?

10. The twentieth century was a period of great and accelerated social change. In particular, the historical years that make up the bulk of Grace's memories comprised a time of enormous transition. In what ways does Grace's life exemplify these social changes?

11. Despite their differences, how might Grace and Hannah be seen as "doubles"? How does Grace's relationship with Alfred mirror Hannah's relationship with Robbie?

12. Another theme in The House at Riverton is that of inheritance — the way we are bound to our families through various items that are passed between the generations. Along with material inheritances, we are also subject to physical, social and psychological legacies. These inheritances are important in making us who we are, and are not easily escaped. In what way is this notion explored in The House at Riverton? How do these various types of inheritance influence the lives of Hannah, Frederick, Teddy, Robbie, Grace, Jemima and Simion?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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