Tuesday, September 25, 2012
The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons
About 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 parlor 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 friendship that will transform Tyneford-and Elise-forever.
Solomons' The House at Tyneford had all the elements that promised a very satisfying read......an English estate with a handsome heir, an upstairs/downstairs hierarchy, the drama of impending war, and the poignant story of a lovely young Jewish woman in Vienna forced to leave her family and their lavish lifestyle for a life of servitude in an English manor. The writing was very descriptive and evocative, and I found myself delighting in the author's ability to create a vivid image of life in an English country home and all the charming details of life by the sea. However, I felt that plot actually seemed to take a back seat to setting, and the story became a tedious re-creation of time and place -- not much happened to keep the plot moving forward until the very end of the story.
It would be too spoilerish to discuss the main character's love life, but suffice it to say that I was not on board with the relationships that Elise had throughout the novel which was a huge disappointment. I didn't feel a real connection between her first liaison -- it just came out of nowhere and seemed to go nowhere -- and the path Elise found later in life was understandable under the circumstances, but it was a completely unsatisfying ending for me. What did work for me was the turmoil Elise felt over the years of never knowing the fate of her parents, and longing to be reunited with her sister in America. That particular aspect of the plot was very well done, and I can't imagine the suffering and persecution of the Jewish community during this time.
I'm glad I read The House at Tyneford, but somehow wish it could have been so much more.