Author: Natasha Solomons
Genre: Historical Fiction
First Published: 2011
Page Count: 355
Film/ TV Adaptation: No
Rating: 5/5 Stars
This is one heartwarming and heart wrenching book that should not be missed.
*Unique Take on Familiar Themes *Engrossing Story *Great Cast of Characters
“It is the storyteller’s prerogative to try to write, every now and then, the ending she might wish for. Even if it exists only on the white page.” Young Elise Landau is forced from her home in Vienna, Austria to escape persecution in a country where it is no longer safe to be a Jew. In order to survive in her new home in Great Britain, this former aristocrat takes on a job as a parlour maid in the grand country house known as Tyneford. Separated from her sister who has fled with her husband to America, and sick with worry over the fate of her parents still stuck in Vienna, Elise moves through her life in a perpetual state of loneliness until Tyneford’s heir, Kit Rivers, returns home from school and gives her life meaning and a new direction.
Splashed across the book cover is a line claiming that lovers of Downton Abbey will adore The House of Tyneford. Seeing as I am a mega fan of that show, this seemed like a book I might enjoy. While it initially can be compared quite easily to the popular PBS series with the upstairs/ downstairs relationships and some very similar characters, this book is much more than a Downton Abbey spinoff and the comparisons really end there. There are so many levels to this story; there is the effect of World War II on Jews and England, Elise’s fall from Viennese aristocrat to the servant life, and her unexpected attachment to Tyneford and it’s inhabitants. Some of the themes in the book might not seem original; the topic of upstairs/ downstairs life has boomed since Downton Abbey, stories about Jewish persecution are not new, and a romance between two lovers from different social classes are a dime a dozen. However, Solomons’s engaging cast of characters and the dramatic story that she has crafted erase any feeling of deja vu.
There were times in the book, however, when I felt the author spent too much time describing the sheep grazing in the field or the crash of the ocean waves instead of getting on with the story. It could be that I was too enthralled with the plot to want to focus on Tyneford’s weather instead of finding out where Elise and the heir to the estate’s relationship was headed. Solomons’s writing style is beautiful, but there were many times that I felt a bit deflated that I had to drudge through a slow paragraph or two before getting back to the juicy sections of the book.
The book closes with a very final ending that doesn’t leave the reader with any questions or feeling that the story lacked closure. However, I was so engrossed in this book that I was extremely depressed to read that last sentence. There was nothing more the author could have touched on or added to the story, but I felt heavy-hearted to have to leave the world of Tyneford. Without a doubt, this is going up there on my mental bookshelf of favorite books of all time. And P.S. I’d like to know why this has not been made into a movie, miniseries, or tv movie yet.