Read-along on The House at Riverton: part 1

Hello fellow readers!

I’m so excited to launch us all in a terrific adventure, no doubt.

So to help you as you start reading this book, here are my questions.

BEWARE! REVISED QUESTIONS, THANKS TO MOLLY AT LitLovers

On Part 1: pp.3-167 [from ‘Ghosts Stir’ to ‘Until we meet again’, included] – we will post our answers on November 5

Please share your favorite lines

Ghosts stir:

  1. What effect do the first 2 sentences have on you, as a reader?
  2. Does this chapter draw you in? How does the author manage to do this?

The Drawing Room:

  1. “Ursula laughed and I was pleased that the young are so quick to read uncongeniality as irony.” How do you understand this line? Explain how it reflects or not your own experience.

 The nursery:

4. If you mentioned the title of another book in question #1, do you find here more things in common with that book?

Waiting for the recital:

5. What’s your feeling toward the Game?

 All good things:

6. Merriam-Webster describes “suspense” as “pleasant excitement as to a decision or outcome” of a novel. How does the author create the suspense here?

7. According to you, what’s the significance of the chapter title?

Saffron High Street:

8. Morton often integrates the themes of memory, relationships between generations, secret, in her novels. How has she worked them, and other themes you may have identified, in this story?

In The West:

9. What do you like most in this chapter?

Until we meet again:

10. How would you define what a Gothic novel is? Does your definition apply to the first chapter of this book? Why or why not?

Feel free to add your own questions

*** *** ***

Recap page

November 12:
Part 2: pp.171-335 [from ‘The Twelfth of July’ to ‘The Ball And After’ included]

November 19:
Part 3: pp.339-448 [from ‘Catching Butterflies’ to ‘The Choice’ included]

November 26:
Part 4: pp.451-593 [from ‘Hannah’s Story’ to the end]


YOU CAN STILL SEND ME YOUR EMAIL
(see my “Contact me” page)
IF YOU WANT TO JOIN THOSE WHO ALREADY REGISTERED

LOOKING FORWARD TO READ THIS BOOK WITH YOU!

26 thoughts on “Read-along on The House at Riverton: part 1

  1. Pingback: November 2012 read-along on The House at Riverton « Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: October 2012 wrap-up « Words And Peace

  3. I copy and past Melissa’s answers here if you want to get the conversation going:

    Please share your favorite lines:
    Melissa:

    “I was not a rebel – indeed, back then I had a fierce sense of duty – but to live without Holmes and Watson was unthinkable.”

    “…for home is a magnet that lures back even its most abstracted children.”

    “It is an uncanny feeling, that rare occasion when one catches a glimpse of oneself in repose. An unguarded moment, stripped of artifice, when one forgets to fool even oneself.”

    Like

  4. My favorite lines:
    “Age is the great mellower.” p.92
    “Home is a magnet that lures back even its most abstracted children.” p.102
    “I find myself in time’s cold waiting room, shivering as ancient ghosts and echoing voices recede.” p.102
    “The way the fabric of time is changing, and I am beginning to feel at home in the past, and a visitor to this strange and blanched experience we agree to call the present.” p.104
    “I lifted the book to my nose and breathed the ink from its pages. The scent of possibilities.” p.146

    Like

  5. Melissa’s answers:
    Ghosts Stir:

    1) What effect do the first 2 sentences have on you, as a reader?
    It immediately reminded me of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

    2) Does this chapter draw you in? How does the author manage to do this?
    Yes, it sets up the secrets and the mystery. I wanted to know how the main character’s life is woven in with the Hartford sisters.

    The Nursery:

    4) If you mentioned the title of another book in question #1, do you find here more things in common with that book?
    Yes, a new person being introduced into a home, but this book is told from a servant’s POV instead of the lady of the house’s POV.

    Waiting for the recital:

    5) What’s your feeling toward the Game?
    It sounds like child’s play, but there’s some serious foreboding as well.

    All Good Things:

    6) Merriam-Webster describes “suspense” as “pleasant excitement as to a decision or outcome” of a novel. How does the author create the suspense here?
    She shows Hannah attempting to push the boundaries with her father and the war starts.

    8) Morton often integrates the themes of memory, relationships between generations, secret, in her novels. How has she worked them, and other themes you may have identified, in this story?
    The story is all about Grace’s secret, her relationship with her own mother and relationship with her daughter. That theme echoes all of Morton’s other books.

    In The West:

    9) What do you like most in this chapter?
    I loved meeting Robbie and learning about his history; his mother the Spanish maid and his father, a wealthy Lord.

    Until We Meet Again:

    10) How would you define what a Gothic novel is? Does your definition apply to the first chapter of this book? Why or why not?
    Gothic novels are defined as “a genre or mode of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance.” I think this book definitely fits into this category because it combines multiple romances (Alfred, Teddy, etc.) with mysteries. It’s also very atmospheric, set in a huge English manor with the memory of a death hanging over everyone.

    Like

  6. My answers:
    1) Having read recently Rebecca, for a read-along, mind you, I was almost shocked when I read the first sentences of The House at Riverton, I had no idea! I felt I was going back to that same blurred world between memory and present, catastrophes and dramas, gloom and mystery.

    Like

  7. 2) I feel drawn into this novel by the themes of secrets, guilt, suicide, murder? that creep in little by little.
    I am also intrigued by the relationships of all the characters already mentioned. It looks like you are progressively given pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but you have no idea how they connect. What happened during that summer??

    Like

  8. 3) “Ursula laughed and I was pleased that the young are so quick to read uncongeniality as irony.”
    There’s a lot in this sentence: the relationship between generations. Ursula is young, almost uni-dimensional, whereas our heroine, rich with many decades, is made up of many layers of complexity, because of her past, of things she may want to hide, etc. And she cannot think that a young person could already have all these levels in herself.

    Like

    • I was thinking about this question again last night after reading (in part II) about how Ursula bends down to kiss Grace on the cheek and how surprised Grace is by the gesture. There is really a lot going on here not only with generational differences but also class differences–there was so much formality involved in being a servant, such a distance between people of different classes, that such immediate familiarity and ease is shocking to Grace, even though she is no longer a servant. She can’t believe how uncomplicated such interactions are for Ursula, even as she sees all these layers of complexity because of her upbringing and past. I think in a way she almost admires Ursula for it, though.

      Like

  9. 6) The title again seems to give a mixed message. We have fun, joy, wit, a party, and at the same time we know the beginning of the war is going to be announced. I felt on the edge of my seat, waiting for the ineluctable to happen.

    Like

  10. 8) Mysteries and secrets keep accumulating.
    I like the way we seem to drift naturally from the present to the past.
    I couldn’t believe Morton even managed to insert a Rebecca in here!!, and we have those themes of death, grief and guilt.

    Like

  11. 9) I like the way more details are progressively given: the name of a place, the age of the characters, their relationships; and the way mysteries keep accumulating!!!. It’s like a veil being gently veiled on a painting.
    I loved the surprise effect of “when we reached the library, it was too late” on p. 136. I thought it meant Emmeline had died while falling.

    Like

  12. 10) there are lots of ways of defining a Gothic novel. I like this definition: ‘A type of fiction that is characterized by gloomy castles, ghosts, and supernatural happenings – creating mysterious and sometimes frightening story.’ It is definitely gloomy, in an old mansion, weird stuff is going on, with the ‘game’ maybe, and unknown and mysterious things that happened in the past. There’s a sense of fear.

    Like

  13. I would also add that I felt a bit overwhelmed by the huge quantity of names mentioned, so I started a chart with all the names, and I progressively specify their relationships, as they are revealed in the book.
    Another detail: in my paperback edition, the chapter titles are in hand script, I like it, it adds to the Gothic style, for me.

    Looking forward to your comments and own answers.

    Like

  14. I’ll post my answers as well:

    PART ONE

    Ghosts stir:

    1. What effect do the first 2 sentences have on you, as a reader?

    It gives you a creepy feeling about the place right away, because if it’s the setting of a nightmare then whatever memories the person has of the place must be negative in some way. It also shows that something of significance must have happened in that time and place, for it to still be affecting them all these years later.

    2. Does this chapter draw you in? How does the author manage to do this?

    It does, as it makes you anticipate that the narrator will be reliving events of some interest and importance through the film being made. The author evokes a feeling of mystery surrounding the past, using short, almost teasing glimpses of the house and the characters who will be involved in the story to draw the reader in.

    The Drawing Room:

    3. “Ursula laughed and I was pleased that the young are so quick to read uncongeniality as irony.” How do you understand this line? Explain how it reflects or not your own experience.

    I understand it to mean that Ruth was being deliberately cold in her response but that Ursula didn’t choose to take it that way. I think most people from younger generations are accustomed to hearing and using sarcasm in everyday conversations, so that sometimes our first assumption might be that someone is being ironic rather than unfriendly. It shows that Ursula is a young person who is confident in her interactions with others, and she assumes that Ruth and Grace will be genuinely enthusiastic and interested in her film project.

    The nursery:

    4. If you mentioned the title of another book in question #1, do you find here more things in common with that book?

    It didn’t make me think of another book, so I can’t really answer this question.

    Waiting for the recital:

    5. What’s your feeling toward the Game?

    I thought it sounded pretty typical of something that siblings who spend most of their time in each other’s company would invent. It reminded me of games I might have played with my brothers as a child, and it also made me think of the sisters in Little Women who create elaborate games to occupy themselves.

    All good things:

    6. Merriam-Webster describes “suspense” as “pleasant excitement as to a decision or outcome” of a novel. How does the author create the suspense here?

    The fact that she focuses on all of the effort and detail that go into making the dinner party a success, and how the event becomes a celebration for the entire household–it feels like a golden era, never to be seen again as the spectre of the war hangs over them. It reminded me a lot of certain scenes from the first season of Downton Abbey.

    7. According to you, what’s the significance of the chapter title?

    It makes me think of the quotation “All good things must come to an end” which signifies that there will be an ending of some kind to things as they have been up to this point for the characters in the story. Something is going to change.

    Saffron High Street:

    8. Morton often integrates the themes of memory, relationships between generations, secret, in her novels. How has she worked them, and other themes you may have identified, in this story?

    We learn more about the relationship between Grace, Ruth, and the grandson in this section, and it’s at this point that Grace buys the recorder to tell her story to her grandson. It’s as if now that all these memories are opened up for her, she has to relay them to someone. The fact that she chooses her grandson emphasizes the importance of passing things down from one generation to the next–she wants her story to live on after she is gone.

    In The West:

    8. What do you like most in this chapter?

    I liked the fact that Grace is finally “seen” by the children of the house. It bothered me in the earlier chapters that although she is cleaning the nursery and right in their midst all the time, they act (with the exception of the “dusting the old nanny incident”) like she isn’t even there. I guess this says a lot about the strict boundaries between the classes before the war, but as we know war is a great equalizer and things will not be the same after. It’s appropriate that Emmeline’s seeing of Grace corresponds with her fall and the start of the war.

    Until we meet again:

    9. How would you define what a Gothic novel is? Does your definition apply to the first chapter of this book? Why or why not?

    To me, a gothic novel has elements of a mystery mixed with melodrama. I can see how the label could be applied, although for the moment the book is lacking in any kind of horror or supernatural element that would, for me, really push it over into gothic.

    Like

    • 1. I love your details here. This is so very interesting that I could apply your lines totally to the beginning of Rebecca, even though you did not made the parallel explicitly.
      2. “teasing glimpses” = perfect way of describing Morton’s technique here. cool.
      5. Ah yes Little Women! As I’m reading now part 2, I thought of them. But I have to say, not so much in a positive way: I hated so much those girls, these here tend also to get on my nerves in part 2.
      7. Thanks for explaining the title this way. Now this makes sense!
      8. Yes, she looked more like one of the flower vases she used to clean than a real person, trying to eaves-dropping to be part of their world.
      9. I agree with you, though there are so many mentions of deaths and guilt that it feels something big is coming.

      Like

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