Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review -- The House at Tyneford

The House at Tyneford: A Novel
My enjoyment rating: 2.75 of 5 stars
Book source:  Personal copy
Genre:  Historical fiction
Recommended for:  Downton Abbey fans

Elise Landau is not accustomed to taking care of herself, let alone an entire estate. But on the eve of WWII, she has been sent by her family to England to work as domestic servant, in an attempt to secure her safety against the advancing German army into her homeland of Austria.

Natasha Solomons has written the “perfect” novel for Downton Abbey enthusiasts. She so completely captures the life of a servant in a manor house, you expect Mr. Carson to be ironing the paper or Mrs. Patmore to be barking orders in the kitchen.

Her descriptions of the estate, gardens, farm, and coast could be scripted directly from a Home & Garden magazine – they were luscious and vivid – I expected to walk out my front door into an English fishing village.

However, that seems to be all that is perfect about this novel. She spends so much time trying to capture the “feel” of country living, the rest of the story is all but forgotten. I was expecting a very multi-layered storyline (much like The Forgotten Garden) but all I got was a very nice, predictable, linear love story, with a beautiful backdrop.

There are so many gems waiting to be explored – a novel hidden in a viola, a sister overseas, parents missing in the midst of war – all of them mostly ignored until the final pages. And although the ending was satisfying, by then…I didn’t really care anymore.

Ultimately, it was a beautifully written book, but a one-deminsional story.