I read The House at Riverton a few years ago, but it wasn’t until I read The Secret Keeper a couple of months ago that I realized what a truly wonderful author Kate Morton is.
I have now read all 4 of her books, and I found each to be fascinating and well researched historical novels. She reminds me in some ways of Diane Setterfield (The Thirteenth Tale; Bellman and Black) in the Gothic tone of her novels. The four novels she has written so far (with a 5th on the way) all bear a resemblance to each other in the style of story that they tell. They all revolve around themes of secrets, family history and relationships. What I particularly enjoy about her stories is the way that they seem to unravel in a series of revelations about the characters and their motives. Morton’s novels are beautifully written and intricately plotted, with fascinating and emotionally complex characters.
The House at Riverton (2006)
“The House at Riverton is a gorgeous debut novel set in England between the wars. It is the story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death and a way of life that vanished forever, told in flashback by a woman who witnessed it all and kept a secret for decades. Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline. In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they — and Grace — know the truth. In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace’s youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever. The novel is full of secrets — some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne du Maurier. It is also a meditation on memory, the devastation of war and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history.” publisher
The Forgotten Garden (2008)
On the eve of the First World War, a little girl is found alone after a gruelling ocean voyage from England to Australia. All she can remember is that a woman she calls the Authoress had promised to look after her. But the Authoress has vanished. So starts the haunting second novel from the author of ‘The House at Riverton’. Discover
The Distant Hours (2010)
“Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Millderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret. Evacuated from London as a thirteen year old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe, and taken to live at Millderhurst Castle with the Blythe family: Juniper, her twin sisters and their father, Raymond. In the grand and glorious Millderhurst Castle, a new world opens up for Edie’s mother. She discovers the joys of books and fantasy and writing, but also, ultimately, the dangers. Fifty years later, as Edie chases the answers to her mother’s riddle, she, too, is drawn to Millderhurst Castle and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiance in 1941 plunged her into madness. Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Millderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it…” Fantastic Fiction website.
The Secret Keeper (2012)
“During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy. Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, discover the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds–Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy–who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. “The Secret Keeper” explores longings and dreams, the lengths people go to fulfill them, and the consequences they can have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers, and schemers told–in Morton’s signature style–against a backdrop of events that changed the world.” Discover
Kate Morton’s upcoming novel, due to be published this year, is being kept extremely secret, referred to only as Untitled #5 (and is available for pre-order in the Discover catalogue). I can only say that I am excited to see what she comes up with next!