The House at Riverton Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The House at Riverton

The story is about a young maid named Grace who witnesses a famous poet's death and decides to keep a secret for the rest of her life. Ursula Ryan is a film producer. The year is 1999 and she is working on a historical movie about Riverton Manor. She sends a letter to an old lady named Grace Bradley and she asks her to help tell the tragic story of the family that owned and lived at Riverton before and after the First World War. Grace is 98 years old. She started working at Riverton when she was only fourteen. Her mother was a housemaid also and she worked at Riverton when she was young. She stopped working at the big house when she fell pregnant.
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Grace is very reluctant to talk about the past but she decides to record her story and unveil her well kept secret for the benefit of her only grandson, Marcus.

In 1914, Riverton House was the main residence of Lord and Lady Ashbury. Lord Ashbury had two sons, Major James and Mr. Frederick. Major James and his wife, Jemima, had two sons but the boys died one after the other because they had a disease called hemophilia. Mr. Frederick was a widower and he was the father of three young and charming children, David (16), Hannah (14) and Emmeline (10). Grace loved working at Riverton. She liked Hannah and Emmeline and she tried to gain their trust and confidence by keeping their secrets and joining in their conversations. She was very much aware that she was nothing but a servant but she enjoyed the company.

David and his friend Robert Hunter were both studying at Eton. David brought Robert to Riverton for Christmas and they started decorating the Christmas tree when Emmeline fell from a ladder and injured her hand. Robert tore a piece of her dress and bandaged her wound and Emmeline was very pleased. David and Robert joined the army and went to France to fight in the war. Mr. Frederick was very displeased. He decided to stop talking to his son altogether.   

Lord Ashbury and Major James went to war and they both died soon after the second year of fighting. David died in France also and Mr. Frederick was shocked. He inherited the title of Lord of Riverton and he moved to the house permanently. Mr. Frederick was a businessman and he owned a car factory.

Hannah was a very stubborn, independent young woman and she decided to get a job and never get married. She loved adventure and she wanted to travel and see the world. She took some courses of shorthand writing and she decided to share her secret with Grace. Grace let Hannah believe that she was taking shorthand also, in order to hide the fact that she was buying books that were not allowed to the servants.
Mr. Frederick didn't allow Hannah to get a job and Lady Violet believed that it was time Hannah should get married. She tricked Hannah into marrying a young American named Theodore Luxton by making her believe that married life was going to offer her the adventure that she was seeking. Hannah married Teddy Luxton and she moved to London. She took Grace with her as a maid and confidante.

One day, Robert Hunter visited Hannah in London and he gave her a small book that belonged to her dead brother, David. Robert was a well recognized poet and he started visiting Hannah and taking Emmeline to parties. He told Hannah that he was madly in love with her and they started a secret love affair. Grace's mother died and she went back to the village to help with her burial. She saw Mr. Frederick observing the funeral from a distance and she realized that Mr. Frederick and her mother had an affair when they were young. She also realized that Mr. Frederick was her father. Alfred, a young man that worked at Riverton, proposed to Grace but she said she cannot leave Hannah's service if they are to be married. Grace refused Alfred's proposal and she returned to London. Hannah's affair was discovered by Teddy's sister, Deborah. Mr. Frederick died and Teddy moved to Riverton. Hannah decided to run away with Robert and she left Grace a letter written in shorthand and a suicide note for her sister Emmeline. Grace was not capable of reading shorthand. She found Emmeline and they both started looking for Hannah. Hannah and Robert were about to leave for Germany when Emmeline found them. She was in love with Robert and she started threatening them with a gun she found in the pocket of her coat. Robert, Hannah and Emmeline wrestled for the gun and Robert ended up shot in the head. They decided to tell the police that Robert killed himself.

Hannah died giving birth to a girl and Grace left Riverton forever and started working on her own. Emmeline died in a car accident soon after Robert's death. Eventually, Grace got married and she became an archeologist.

Grace died in the arms of her grandson soon after recording her story.
Best part of story, including ending: I loved reading about daily life at Riverton. I tried to understand Grace's loyalty and devotion to Hannah and I discovered that it is actually not very hard to remain loyal to the people you love. I liked the picture Kate Morton tried to bring in front of our eyes. I felt very sad for the tragedy of the family.

Best scene in story: Hannah and Emmeline are playing near the pool and Grace brings some lemonade. Hannah offers Grace some lemonade even if Grace is only the servant, The scene is peaceful and calm and the girls are very happy.

Opinion about the main character: I hated the fact that Grace lied to Hannah about being able to read shorthand. I felt that the whole tragedy was Grace's fault. I think Hannah deserved to be happy with Robert and that her life was ruined because Grace couldn't read her letter and understand the situation.

The review of this Book prepared by Andreea Lupei a Level 5 American Goldfinch scholar

Chapter Analysis of The House at Riverton

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Time/era of story    -   1900-1920's Life of a profession:    -   maid Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Job/Profession/Status story    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   servant Age:    -   a teen Ethnicity/Nationality    -   British Unusual characteristics:    -   Super sensitive soggy jelly muffin


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   6 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK    -   France Misc setting    -   fancy mansion

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only    -   descript of kissing Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Kate Morton Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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