Thursday, March 13, 2014

The House at Tyneford - Natasha Solomons

Title: The House at Tyneford
Author: Natasha Solomons
Paperback: 359 pages
Publisher: A Plume Book/Penguin
Published date: 2011
FTC: Library book sale

I love that the world has finally caught up to my love of Downton Abbey.  I've watched since Season One and my husband set aside Sunday nights so I could watch on PBS.  I'll admit that I haven't been as hooked this season...only have seen most of the first episode. That said I still love the era and the books that are set around one of Britian's imposing estates.  I also love WWII era books so I knew I'd enjoy The House at Tyneford.  I rarely give books a five star rating on Goodreads but this one definitely merited that rating.  Beautiful.

Back of the book:

It's the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlour maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, where servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn. But war is coming, and the world is changing. When the master of Tyneford's young son, Kit, returns home, he and Elise strike up an unlikely upstairs-downstairs friendship that will transform Tyneford - and Elise - forever.

My thoughts:

The story is what drew me into reading The House at Tyneford but it was the writing that made me fall in love with the book.  Solomons writes about the great house on the Dorset coast with such beauty that if I went to visit I would feel like I'd been there before.  There are some books that make me yearn to travel and visit their locations and this is definitely one. Tyneford house is a fictional place but Solomons based it on a real manor that was requisitioned during WWII.  This novel isn't just an ode to the men and women who fought and survived during WWII but an elegy to a way of life and an era that came crashing down because of the war.

The novels characters are also beautifully drawn.  As the youngest daughter of a wealthy Viennese family, Elise could have come off as irritatingly spoiled.  However, she is mourning the loss of her family and home all the while trying to daily do her job with a straight face as if her whole world isn't just crashing down around her. It's always interesting to me to learn new facets of WWII.  I had never heard of the "domestic service visa" which allowed affluent refugees to come to England and work.

While there is a love story or two in the novel, I definitely wouldn't consider this a romance book. It's a novel of WWII and a hauntingly beautiful ode to a bygone era.

Alternate covers:

As you know I love to check out alternate covers.  The House at Tyneford also goes by another name, The Novel in the Viola.  Elise is charged with taking a copy of her father's latest book, hidden in a viola.  While this is definitely a main part of the story, I think naming the novel after it is a bit confusing.  It only makes sense after reading the novel but I would think that a reader going into the story thinking it revolved around the novel in viola might be disappointed or confused.