Australian author Kate Morton popped onto the literary scene in 2007 with her debut novel The House at Riverton. Having since published two additional internationally acclaimed novels, Morton is now gaining a foothold in the genre of mystery gothic fiction as her stories climb the bestseller lists of the US and UK. What is mystery gothic fiction, you ask? In essence, it is the haunting of the present by the past, which is further accompanied by the ideas of haunting (physical and psychological), the mystery of the unseen, deja-vu, and other reincarnations of history that occur in modern times.
At a summer-house party in the mid 1920’s, Grace Bradley, servant to the family at Riverton House, witnesses a suicide that will forever change her life. The true story behind the event is known only to Grace, and as Grace reflects on her 98 years of life, she can’t help but to think back on the memories of her past. Thinking back on what she’s witnessed, she realizes that she must pour out her secrets so that she can finally rest and pass away in peace. A woman named Ursula is making a film about the events of the fateful night, and contacts Grace to consult on the film. Initially hesitant, Grace eventually agrees and talks to Ursula about Riverton, causing her memories to flood back into sharp focus, and making Grace all the more anxious to tell her story before she leaves this earth.
I need to start off by saying that the book does take a while to take off. The idea behind the story is awesome, weaving the past and present together until, to Grace, it is indistinguishable. Once Morton finds the correct pace in switching between the past and present the novel soars. The last two hundred pages really shine. The way Grace’s “secrets” are revealed is done in a truly perfect fashion. The true events are written very gothic and dark, making the reader hungry to know what really happened! Although Grace obviously regresses throughout the book, her memory of the past is picture perfect, giving the reader an awesome account of the opulence of the roaring twenties. There are many characters in the novel that each have their own strong qualities that make them stand apart from the others. In other works, only the main characters do this, yet Morton strays from the beaten path and gives us strong supporting characters as well. Although the first 100 pages seem slow and uneventful, the multitude of supporting characters fleshes out the plot and the storyline quickens soon after, making the novel irresistable. Elegant, opulent, and beautifully written, this novel will keep you guessing as to what really happened up until the very end.
4 out of 5 Stars
This is my fourteenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
This is my second completed review for the Chunkster Challenge