Friday, February 26, 2016

Book Review: The House at Tyneford

After finishing Natasha Solomons' incredible book, The Song of Hartgrove Hall, I attempted two other books (Story Trumps Structure, and The Bronte Plot) but could not get into them enough to continue for the moment because I was desperate to return to the world Solomons created in her most recent book. So, I dashed off to the library and picked up an earlier book of hers called The House at Tyneford. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the Hartgrove Hall book, but still thrilled in the author's awesome word choice and lyrical writing.

Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is a Jewess leaving her home of Vienna, in 1938, bound for a domestic position at Tyneford, a country estate in England, in order to avoid the coming persecution. Even though she agrees to a one-year term, she is hoping that she will be able to join her parents and sister and brother-in-law, who are all attempting to emigrate to the United States. Elise has a hard time of it because she is a cultured Austrian living in a servant position, brought to England by a manor lord who was charmed by her advertisement offering to cook a goose. When the manor lord's son returns home, he is determined to assist Elise in advancing her command of the English language. Their relationship pushes Elise's identity crisis even further and threatens to change life in the house altogether.

I cannot help echoing the words of praise offered in the inside front cover:

"Natasha Solomons has written a lovely, atmospheric novel full of charming characters and good, old-fashioned storytelling. Fans of Downton Abbey and Kate Morton ... will absolutely adore The House at Tyneford." - Kristin Hannah

"The House at Tyneford is a wonderful, old-fashioned novel that takes you back in time to the manor homes, aristocracy, and domestic servants of England. In this setting, Natasha Solomons gives us a courageous heroine whose incredible love story will keep you in suspense until the final page." - Kathleen Grissom

It was a lovely love story (if a bit predictable) and the writing was, again, magical. While this book has its own share of devotion to music and books (Elise's mother is a gifted singer, her father a noted author, and her sister a talented violist), it wasn't quite the emphatic love song to music that I enjoyed in The Song of Hartgrove Hall. Still, the writing was extremely good and I couldn't help but be swept thoroughly into the telling of the story. This author's books will appeal to individuals who are smitten with English culture, and especially country estates, those who enjoy music, and anyone who is looking for a riveting love story. This particular book was cleaner than the previously read one (no adultery, no drug use), so if that is an important criteria, I would suggest reading this one first.

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