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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Sluttery Book Club: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

When we asked our Facebook fans what books we should be reading, there was lots of little Facebooky thumbs next to The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. So we decided to find out what all the fuss was about in our second Sluttery Book Club.

What's the book about? Here's the Amazon blurb: Summer 1924: On the eve of a glittering Society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again. Winter 1999: Grace Bradley, 98, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet's suicide. Ghosts awaken and memories, long-consigned to the dark reaches of Grace's mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge; something history has forgotten but Grace never could.

Caleigh: The House at Riverton is not the sort of book I usually read and I wasn't expecting to enjoy it at all, so I was pleasantly surprised. It took a while to immerse myself in Grace's story but when I did, I found her to be a character I could really root for. Sadly, I thought the other characters were rather two-dimensional, especially Emmeline and Hannah (however, since they existed only as Grace's memories, maybe that was intentional). I was intrigued by the 'downstairs' characters and wish that Morton had expanded them a bit more. While certain elements of the plot are tied up quite beautifully, others are left disappointingly open. All in all, a haunting story with one compelling character, but I wanted more.

Alex: I really wanted to like this book. It has everything I love - the roaring twenties, gothic romance, dark family secrets. I just found the execution very clumsy. The clues to the secrets were made so painfully obvious it made reading the book a bit of a chore. Such a shame!

Sian: This week, I am that girl. I'm the girl who didn't finish the book club book. But what I have read of it, I'm really enjoying! Particularly the juxtaposition between young Grace and the other children in the book. Bit long, though.

Hazel: Who chose this book?! [Er... me. Ed.] The pace was painfully slow. It felt like nothing actually happened until the final 30 pages. There were moments that were beautifully written but I felt the author concentrated so much on trying to write eloquently that the book suffered massively. I was so bored throughout. I'm really struggling to find anything positive about the book at all, it is without doubt the most dull book I've ever read.

Elizabeth: The House of Riverton had so many similarities to Downtown Abbey that I found it distracting. I'm not sure which came first but like Caleigh I found the characters rather lacking in depth. The first half of the book is unnecessarily long and I found myself wondering when the plot would begin to materialise. The second half had elements of interest and excitement with Hannah's story taking some interesting turns. The author has clearly done their homework with details from the era thrown in thick and fast but there were too many obvious clich├ęs. And then there is a sudden change in narrator for a chapter to tell the story of Hannah which was explained away as "Hannah told me all this later". It was frustrating and unbelievable. I found the story tedious and overall a bit of a chore to read.

The Sluttery Verdict: Gosh, we really didn't get on with this book. We wanted to be transported into a dark world of 20s glamour and twisted family secrets and just didn't get that. The House at Riverton has been incredibly popular, but it just didn't float our boat. No Sluttery thumbs up for this novel.

What do you think? Did you love it? Hate it? Want to throw it at us because you're mad that we made you read it? We'd love you to share your thoughts in the comments. Next time we're reading Never Mind by Edward St Aubyn. It's the first in a series, and we're hoping it'll be so brilliant that we want to read the rest (apparently it's 'epic and intimate, appalling and comic' so we're pretty excited). We'll be having our live chat on the evening of August 28th and using the Twitter hashtag #DSBookClub.

WARNING: We've kept all spoilers out of this post, but we can't promise that you won't read spoilers in the comments. Don't say you weren't warned.

20 comments:

  1. I think it was published 2007, so definitely pre-Downton :-)

    One of my favourites if truth be told, I fell headlong into it and barely came up for air the first time I read it. Was just completely enamoured with the character of Grace - both her young and old perspectives.

    Fascinating how a book can affect each reader in such different ways! Looking forward to discussing it and reading the next!

    Jem xXx

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    1. I love how one person can love a book that one person hates. Sometimes people get really heated about it, but it's actually fun.

      Although I really hope that next time I choose a book everyone likes it.

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  2. I didn't read it for this but my book group chose it a few months ago and gosh, I hated it. It's one of only two books I ever chucked across a room in disgust (the other one was another bookgroup choice, The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas) I think I disliked it for the same reasons as you've laid out here, it was just so clumsily written!

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  3. I read The House at Riverton on holiday a few years ago and really didn't like it. Like Alex I was surprised because it sounds like exactly the sort of thing I'd usually love, but I just found it boring and predictable. I hate it when you save a book to read on holiday and then it's really disappointing!

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    1. The last book I read on holiday was a Week in December. God, that was a difficult read. I'll never read a Faulks novel again.

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    2. Oh, really? I loved A Week In December and thought it was really accessible. The end was a bit limp but I enjoyed it up til then.

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    3. This is why Book Club is ace. Also, I'm avoiding any book that a national newspaper calls 'important'. I'm learning that it's book speak for 'bloody boring'.

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  4. Same. The blurb for this book really sucked me in, I love novels that are set in the early 20th century. Please don't hate me for this, I know it sounds snobby but when I bought my second-hand copy I was put off straight away by the big 'Richard and Judy's Summer Read' sticker on the front! I don't get on well with their choices and on reading this book on holiday, I was sorry I bothered :( It was the only book I'd taken with me too so I was a bit gutted. It was very boring, didn't pull me in at all, simply but laboriously written at the same time so it was a chore to read. Onwards and upwards though eh!
    Laura B xx

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    1. The blurb really caught my eye, it's exactly the sort of thing I usually love too. What a shame most people found it boring.

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    2. There were lots of reasons for choosing it! I'm sad not many people enjoyed it. On paper it sounds brilliant.

      (When it comes to books, it appears that the term 'on paper' might be a little too on the nose.)

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  5. I haven't had a chance to re read it for the Sluttery Book Club (which I love by the way) but I did read it a year or so ago and really enjoyed it. I found it really engaging and easy to read and got very drawn into the story. I love all her books. I am really surprised that you didn't like it and found it dull.

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    Replies
    1. I'm enjoying it! But now I'm a little worried that all the negative comments mean that I won't finish it...

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  6. I just wanted to say how excited I am about Edward St Aubyn coming up next. Readers: don't be as stupid as I was and be put off by his posh name. I wrongly presumed his books were not for me, but he rapidly became one of my favourite authors.

    This interview with him is fantastic, but don't read it til you've read the first book: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/aug/17/edward-st-aubyn-interview

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    1. Is this the new judging a book by its cover?

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  7. So glad I'm only on chapter 1, back to the library it is then...

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    1. Awww, don't give up if you're enjoying it!

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  8. This is one of the few books I haven't finished, I found it too similar to Atonement that it made me a little bit angry. No idea which was written first, I had just read atonement first so it won out against this.

    Phae

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    Replies
    1. Oh, Atonement is years old. Maybe even a decade now?

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  9. Ah yes, I had the same reaction as most of the Domestic Sluts - I SHOULD like this, but it just slightly missed the mark. I found Grace's character (old and young) likeable, but some of the others rather two-dimensional, and if someone as dense as me can guess the plot twists ahead of time, then they must be painfully obvious!

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  10. I read this on holiday a couple of years ago in desperation and LOATHED it. Shockingly bad writing, poor story, one dimensional characters and very similar to Atonement which I also hated. Dreadful book.

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