At the age of fourteen, shy, inexperienced Grace Bradley moves into Riverton House, a grand estate outside of London that has been in the wealthy Hartford family for generations. Like her mother before her, Grace serves the Hartfords as a maid. As she quietly moves around the mansion day after day attending to her chores, she becomes entranced with the Hartford children, David, Hannah and Emmeline, and David’s friend Robbie Hunter. The years pass and she forms strong bonds with the Hartford family and the other servants, but her loyalties become increasingly torn. Finally, one night in 1924 during a glitzy Riverton party, Robbie, by then a famous poet, commits suicide. Grace, Emmeline and Hannah are the only witnesses.
Now, seventy-five years later, Grace lives a simple, solitary life in a nursing home. When she receives a letter from a young film director who is making a movie about Robbie’s death and requests an interview with her, she is thrown into turmoil. Long evaded memories begin to flood her mind and she is forced to face painful family secrets.
If you are a fan of Downton Abbey you will love this book! Kate Morton’s prose is rich and Grace is unforgettable. With sweeping elements of drama, historical fiction and romance, this novel spans two world wars and offers a biting view of the sharp contrast that often exists between social classes. Historical fiction doesn't normally draw me in, but a good friend recommended The House at Riverton and I decided to give it a try. I was completely captivated by the tribulations of Morton's characters and by her portrayal of the extravagent Riverton lifestyle. On a side note, this book also brought back memories of my long ago waitressing stint, which felt similar to being a housemaid…but not near as glamorous! Speaking of which, if you’re in the mood to switch gears after spending some time at Riverton House, take a lighthearted look at servitude and read Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica.