Bestie K’s book was the clear favorite of our book club selections, and that was The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons.
I know quite a few of us are Downton Abbey fans. This book is similar in that it follows a girl in service at a large English home. Elise is different because she wasn’t born into service, neither was she born in England. Elise, the daughter of Viennese bohemian nouveau riche, is also a Jewish girl. Because of her parents’ money, she was able to find a position as a housemaid in the Rivers household at Tyneford, a small beach village, just before the Nazi occupation. Elise, herself accustomed to champagne, rich dinners, and being attended to, now has to learn her place in the big household. She must now be out of sight and mind, and satisfy the most proper Mr. Wrexham. The problem is, she never really can figure it out, especially when she meets the two people of the household, Mr. Rivers, and his son, Kit. And all the while, she holds on to the hope of being reunited with her family.
I loved that I learned something new from this book. I didn’t realize that affluent Jewish families could send their young daughters to England to escape the ghettos and subsequent concentration camps. And it certainly helped that Elise was a spitfire, with strong emotions, and little subservience to her nature. Elise transforms throughout the story, and she becomes much more of an admirable woman with the passing of time and circumstance.
Of course, the story is not without its heartbreak. Set in WWII, there are bound to be losses and tragedy, but everything fit completely into the story. It was a great read. And I recommend it to any fans of Downton Abbey. In fact it’s one of the books listed in Barnes and Noble’s Downton Abbey Collection.
I rate this book a 4/5.