From the first, I couldn’t get images of Downton Abbey out of my head while reading this book. In parts, it’s a mash-up of Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs about the lives of staff and their wealthy patrons and how they intersect and influence the other. The House at Riverton has all the scandal and drama of Downton Abbey and quite a bit of heart. Told from the perspective of house maid Grace, the story covers about a decade in the lives of the Hartford family. From the fancies and dreams of youth to the traumatizing events of WWI, the characters grow and change with the changing times. However, the passage of time in the book was a bit jumbled for my taste. I never was sure exactly when it was or how old the main characters were supposed to be at that point which caused some head scratching on my part.
Morton’s forumla is definitely starting her and, perhaps because she’s still finding her rhythm, not nearly as strong as in her later books. The big reveals in the book aren’t all that shocking because of Morton’s constant foreshadowing the reader pretty much knows what to expect. Perhaps most jarring is that effort it takes Morton to arrange her main character, Grace, into the other characters secret lives, even listening in at keyholes, to keep the story moving forward. In fact, Grace is probably the best part of the book. She’s the best fleshed out character of the bunch. I found myself far more interested in the little snippets we gleamed about her life than the lives of the Hartfords. Grace was the quietly subversive one and definitely the one who lived what the other characters only dreamed about.
Despite the little hiccups in the book, I enjoyed it immensely. I like Morton’s formula and she does it well. I especially loved the small scene in the book featuring Agatha Christie.
For those of you wondering what’s next in the battle here’s a hint. It’s going to be a memoir! Happy reading!!