The Shifting Fog/The House At Riverton by Kate Morton

The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton

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.

 Set as the war-shattered Edwardian summer surrenders to the decadent twenties, The Shifting Fog is a thrilling mystery and a compelling love story.

My Perspective

I read this book under the name ‘The Shifting Fog’ however it was originally published as ‘The House At Riverton’.

A few years ago i was perusing the bookshelves at my local library when i found The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. I was captured by the story, spread over three generations, of the rich history of a family and the secrets they held.

About a year ago whilst browsing at a garage sale with my husband and my mother-in-law, i found another of her books, The Shifting Fog. It was $2 so i bought it. I’ve only gotten around to reading it now.

Have you ever read a story and have been left feeling like all of your emotions have been sucked right out of you and all that is left is a deep, dark void of bleakness, even despair? You constantly relive the moments in the book, all the turning points, trying to find resolution? This is what this book made me feel.

The story is told by Grace, now an old woman reflecting on her time as a housemaid for the family at Riverton Manor, and her involvement in their lives and the secrets they held. A young film producer sparks the long repressed memories by coming to her about a film she is to produce based on the tragedy that the two sisters, Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, were witness to. History has it’s own way of retelling the past, but only Grace knows the truth.

The story was really well written, weaving such intricate webs, continually adding bits and pieces making the puzzle seem so much larger than you originally thought.

I really liked Grace as a young housemaid. The way the author wrote her character was excellent – with the mindset of a servant , which was so realistic for that time, that it was a privilege to serve in one of the manor houses. I have found that this can be easily overlooked by a lot of authors. They give them a 21st century attitude. I can’t say though that i liked her the same as an old woman. I didn’t understand why it could feel so disjointed because they are the same person however i understand now.

The book starts off fairly lighthearted and full of hope however as the story goes on it starts to take on a dark undertone and soon hope is giving way to despair. Even though i feel a bit like an emotional wreck, i think it was really clever how Kate matched and reflected the story with the evolving of her characters.

I enjoyed the premise of this story and the detail to which Kate went into, however i do feel that it dragged a bit – however mostly the bits of Grace as an older woman. I also found that the ‘script’ scenes caused me to come out of the story, which in turn made it a bit disjointed.

One that also niggled me was that towards the end of the book, because of the bleakness of the situation, there is a small snippet of a possible ‘happy ever after’ however i think the book would have been better without it. The book was so rich and colourful, so emotional and raw and this little bit was like the dash of Hollywood that had to get put in. I don’t think it’s a fault of the author, rather a personal opinion that i would have preferred it didn’t have.

I really, really hate spoilers however i need to let it out otherwise i will go crazy. I am actually quite upset about the outcome of the book. How the relationship between Hannah and Grace finished. It’s so heart-wrenching. The whole story was! It was filled with so much tragedy.

I don’t know if i could read this book again. When i read books like these, i don’t read shallowly, i read deeply – meaning that all my emotions are vulnerable to the text, laid bare for the book to touch. It was a great story but it’s too much for me. It’s probably not healthy and i need to stop doing it but it’s like when a truly great actor becomes the characters they play, they open themselves up to be able to be someone else – like Heath Ledger and The Joker (and no, i’m not comparing myself to Heath Ledger, i’m merely trying to make a point). I want to read books like that because i want to experience them however in cases like this, it’s not always worth it.

If you like deep, emotional dramas or family sagas, i would recommend this book to you. This was her debut novel and i think she did a good job however i enjoyed her second book, The Forgotten Garden a lot more.

As for me, tonight dreams will haunt my sleep while my mind works, storing the pages of this book deep into the recesses of my memory. I will wake, emotions in check, as if nothing ever happened, ready for the next story.

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