It’s the first week check-in for our readalong of The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, and below are the questions we were given to focus our reading. As you can see, I’m a little bit behind as I should have posted this yesterday, but better late than never, right?
This is my first novel by Kate Morton, and so far I’m enjoying it. If you’re reading along, I look forward to reading your answers, too.
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.
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.