Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Upstairs, Downstairs

The House at Riverton
By Kate Morton

I've been hearing a lot about the show "Downton Abbey" on PBS, but I have only managed to catch one episode. I was intrigued, but since it is listed as "Masterpiece Classic" on the channel guide, it never catches my eye as I surf through the guide, eventually settling on something like "Doomsday Preppers."

That one episode of "Downton Abbey" was on my mind as I started to read The House at Riverton. Both take place on large English estates, intertwining the lives of the servants "downstairs" and the masters and mistresses of the house "upstairs" in the early part of the 1900s. Riverton is home to the Hartford family, with lively daughters Hannah and Emmeline taking center stage. Their ladies' maid, Grace, is a keen observer in their lives, never guessing that she will have a hand in how their lives and ultimately, the tragedy that befalls them, unfold.

Grace has pushed her years with the Hartford family aside, desperately trying to move on with her life. It isn't until a filmmaker approaches her about her memories of the death that occurred at a Riverton party that she revisits the estate and the events that shaped her life, revealing its mysteries in her final days.

The House of Riverton is full of secrets and questions of loyalty as the characters try to find their place in the world, and question the roles society has burdened them with against the backdrop of World War I and the glamour of the upper class.

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