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183 of 194 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt, Poignant, with Vivid Historical Detail
"If, in early summer, I catch the scene of elderflower, I am 19 again, sitting cross-legged on the larder floor, clasping a basin of creamy dessert, refusing to cry." This is the voice of Elise Landau, heroine and narrator of Natasha Solomon's engrossing novel, THE HOUSE AT TYNEFORD.

Elise is born and raised in an educated family in Vienna. Her mother Anna is a...
Published on January 1, 2012 by Tracy Marks

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115 of 129 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Book Tries to Be So Much More
This story has an interesting premise. The star of the book is a daughter of a famed opera star and a respected novelist. Although they were raised in luxury, the family is in trouble as Hitler rises to power as they are Jewish. The eldest daughter and her husband are sent to America. Elise, though cosseted and pampered, is sent to England as a maid. The parents remain in...
Published on January 2, 2012 by Susan Johnson


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183 of 194 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt, Poignant, with Vivid Historical Detail, January 1, 2012
By 
Tracy Marks (Arlington, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The House at Tyneford: A Novel (Paperback)
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"If, in early summer, I catch the scene of elderflower, I am 19 again, sitting cross-legged on the larder floor, clasping a basin of creamy dessert, refusing to cry." This is the voice of Elise Landau, heroine and narrator of Natasha Solomon's engrossing novel, THE HOUSE AT TYNEFORD.

Elise is born and raised in an educated family in Vienna. Her mother Anna is a singer; her father, Julian, a successful novelist. "A man who has experienced great sorrow and has known its end wakes each morning feeling the pleasure of sunrise," Julian tells her. But the sorrow of the Landau family is only beginning. It is 1938 in Vienna, Austria, and they are Jewish.

Seeking refuge from Nazi oppression, Anna and Julian are waiting for visas to America - but they can only get two. Elise must travel on her own to England, where as a refugee she will work as a maid on an English estate, Tyneford. Here, where she must learn to be invisible, she will work long hours and find herself living between not two but three worlds - her upbringing in Viennese society, the below-the-stairs life of an English servant, and eventually the milieu of the upper class English Rivers family. Here she will develop a deepening friendship with young Christopher (Kit) Rivers, and experience the complications that such a relationship will create.

Meanwhile, as Elise waits anxiously for word that her parents have received their visas and left for New York, England declares war on Germany, and Elise is now an alien enemy in her new country.

Natasha Solomons is an exceptional writer. She enables us to enter fully into Elise's experience and to care about what happens to her. Solomons' delicate language, use of visual details, and ability to portray character paint the physical reality within which Elise now lives. Here at Tyneford we meet the housekeeper Mrs. Ellsworth, the locals Will, Poppy and Art, the uppity sisters Diana and Juno Hamilton, and the kindly Mr. Rivers. And of course, we meet Kit Rivers, with whom we may even fall in love.

Occasionally, Solomons is even humorous, especially when she describes the attempts of young inexperienced women to understand sex: "It's all about id and ego and superego. I think he puts his id, or is it his ego, into your superego, and then you experience sublimation."

But more often, through lyrical prose, we see through Elise's eyes her picturesque environment - such as a "a snub-nosed lookout point rising about the water like a snout of a sea monster." We participate in the magical first day of mackerel season. We learn the subtleties of the hierarchical English social system. We feel Elise's angst in regard to her parents, and Vienna.

Knowing what will happen politically adds to the poignancy of the novel. The author's hints about what may happen interpersonally contribute to our curiosity, caring and desire to continue reading.

Is Elise's relationship to the Rivers family where she is employed as a maid believable? In the story, yes. In 1938-1940 English life? I'm not sure. Would I have preferred that the author revealed more about the mystery within the viola? Definitely, yes. But this is a minor criticism. THE HOUSE AT TYNEFORD is one of the best novels I've read in recent years. I recommend it highly.
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115 of 129 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Book Tries to Be So Much More, January 2, 2012
This review is from: The House at Tyneford: A Novel (Paperback)
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This story has an interesting premise. The star of the book is a daughter of a famed opera star and a respected novelist. Although they were raised in luxury, the family is in trouble as Hitler rises to power as they are Jewish. The eldest daughter and her husband are sent to America. Elise, though cosseted and pampered, is sent to England as a maid. The parents remain in Vienna trying to get exit visas.
While this started well, the story really goes nowhere while falling into every cliche it can find. Elise predictably falls in love with the son of the estate owner and is removed from her maid duties. The war upends her life in the most predictable way and she recovers in a way you can see a mile away.
This novel tries hard to be "Rebecca." The opening starts. "When I close my eyes I see Tyneford Hall. In the darkness as I lay down to sleep, I see the Purbeck stone frontage..." "Rebecca" is a classic for many reasons including the mastery of suspenseful tension. There is none of that in this book no matter how hard the author tries. "Rebecca" has many unexpected moments. This book has none. This is not a masterpiece in the making.
This is a nice, pleasant read with no surprises and if that's what you're looking for, you've found it.
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58 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You will not forget this story!, January 4, 2012
By 
C. Wong "Book worm" (Plano, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The House at Tyneford: A Novel (Paperback)
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Evocative, engrossing, enchanting, sorrowful, intense, emotional, this book is all of those words.

'The House at Tyneford is wonderful historical fiction. You will find yourself in pre-World War Vienna in the home of author Julian Landau and Anna Landau, opera singer. Their daughters, Margot and Elise are enjoying a wealthy and sheltered life, surrounded by creative parents, friends and family. Even though their father is an atheist and they have a Jewish ancestry and background. The world is changing. People are starting to disappear from their homes at night. The parents hold one last lavish party; the party goers will wear their sparkling jewels and fashionable dresses for one last time. Everyone knows what is coming. The details of the scenery, clothes, and houses in this book make you feel that you are indeed living in Vienna and later at Tyneford.

One of the daughters, Elise is different from the rest of the family; she has no musical or writing talent so her parents had her apply for a job as a domestic servant. Her English is not the best yet. Her ad reads"

"VIENNESE JEWESS, 19, seeks position as domestic servant. Speaks fluid English. I will cook your goose. Elise Landau. Vienna 4,Dorotheegasse, 30/5. "

She is hired and we go with her as she relates her story in first person. We learn what the living conditions of the staff in English mansions are like. We feel the war nearing England. We fall in love with the sea and the area in Dorset.

This is also a romantic story that reminds me of 'Jane Eyre' so much. This romance is not limited to the people who are in love but also to the landscape of the area and House at Tyneford. The characters are richly drawn and the author bases some of the characters on those in her own family.

This romance is further complicated by social class differences and backgrounds. There is the clash of the working class and the priviledged and also the situation of not belonging in either one.

I fell in love with the area so much that I must see it myself. I have e-mailed my friends in Dorset already.

This is wonderfully written story that you will not forget. It is so sorrowful at times that you will probably cry or sob and so beautiful at times that you will want to hug the book. There is even humor in the times.

I recommend this book to all of my friends. You will not forget this one.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not my type of book but its not the author's fault, March 3, 2012
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This review is from: The House at Tyneford: A Novel (Paperback)
It wouldn't be fair to say that this is a bad novel just because it turned out to be the opposite of what I like but ratings are subjective so I'll have to give it what I thought it deserved....From the beginning of the story I can sense the struggle in the author trying too hard to be the character which I find annoying because I figure a good novel should make me feel immersed and not detached. I like Jane Austen and romance and therefore if that's what you like then this is not it, infact, the twist in the end of the novel made my stomach churn - I find it highly inappropriate in every way but I won't deny that the author was making the story realistic toward the end.

The first half of the story was as dreamy as you'd read Cinderella and everything falls into place immediately without any struggle which I find completely unrealistic and while I'm a hopeless romantic person, this was way too easy even for someone like me. E.g: Elise was a Jewish refugee that escaped to London and ended up as a housemaid in an English house, Kit (a rebellious young, handsome, rich, generous, and etc.) made a move on her quickly, they were to be engaged, from a maid whom has been thought of so lowly by her surroundings and abused then all of a sudden get accepted and become the lady of the house - all happened in a flash. And then all that Cinderella like plot went away in the second half of the story I didn't manage to switch on time and had trouble trying to get back into the story again and then it went all the way downhill to tragic - I don't mind the change but it should be smooth - this one I find very jumpy I couldn't relate.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written but..., March 23, 2012
This is the story of a Jewish young lady from Vienna, Elise, who went to work as a housemaid for a British squire on his rural estate at Tyneford. The story is set against the back story of WW 2, but I think it would have worked against just about any backdrop. Elise left Vienna because of the war; her beloved parents, Anna and Julian, and her sister, Margot, were to move to America, but there was no via for Elise. After moving to Tyneford, Elise and the squire's son fell in love and became engaged before he went off to war. I won't say more because I don't want to ruin it for anyone who might read this review.

I am determined not to let my personal feelings and biases influence my review. I am *not* a reader of the romance genre; therefore, there was really too much romance in this novel for my liking. Others--those who read romance--will adore it. I adore WW 2 fiction (and nonfiction) which is why I gravitated towards this novel. Unfortunately, the story did not contain as much WW 2 'stuff' as I like which is why I say that the story could have worked against another backdrop. One example is that although Elise was a Jewish girl with dark hair, never once did she encounter any prejudice at Tyneford from any of the household staff or island occupants. I would think this highly unlikely. Another criticism is that although the novel was beautifully written, there was way too many descriptives for my liking; I found myself skimming whole paragraphs about the crashing waves, etc.

All in all, I do recommend this to readers who like historical fiction with strong romance.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'downton' on the page, January 23, 2012
By 
Farin (New York United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The House at Tyneford: A Novel (Paperback)
I first heard about The House at Tyneford when various publishers started making "If you like Downton Abbey, you'll like..." lists. Like most people, I am obsessed with Downton and, really, anything that addresses the relationship between upstairs and downstairs in grand old English estates, especially when things started breaking down in the early 20th century. The fact that Elise was a Jewish refugee made the book even more appealing.

Ms. Solomons paints a vivid picture of Tyneford House, but things become even more real when you have a strong frame of reference. It was easy to conjure the big house that slowly became more run down as the men left for war and upkeep became more difficult, as well as the frenetic activity of the servants' hall below stairs. With these visuals in my mind's eye, I tumbled straight into the world of Elise and the Rivers family.

Elise herself is an interesting heroine. I was fully prepared to hate her at the beginning--she seemed immature and empty headed and almost content to be so. Of course, as she reflects somewhere in the middle of the book, if she'd been allowed to stay in Vienna and go on as she was, she would never grow beyond the girl we met in the first few pages. Instead, she undergoes a journey of love and loss that is alternately traumatic, happy, and sad, and she emerges a transformed and much more likeable character. I sympathized for her as she tried to find her place in a house where she was neither servant nor gentry and as she tried to adapt in a land that was so different from her home, and I truly felt her pain as she desperately tried to learn news of her parents and sister during the war, when they were scattered all over the world.

Elise is supported by an incredible cast of characters, from the villagers who play hooky from church on the first day of trout season, to the elder Mr. Rivers and his reckless son Kit, to Mr. Wrexham who, with his pride in adherence to the old ways, reminded me of Mr. Carson. They enrich life at Tyneford and make the difficult moments easier to bear.

Parts of the plot are a little predictable, particularly where the various romances are concerned, but I enjoyed everything else about the book so much that I was willing to overlook it. Overall, The House at Tyneford is a transporting historical tale that will definitely keep you satisfied until you can get your next fix of Lady Mary and Matthew.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent Effort, January 31, 2012
By 
J. Perry (Eugene, OR USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The House at Tyneford: A Novel (Paperback)
[SPOILERS}
Good at creating a pre-war Europe, nice detail of Tyneford and surrounding area, fair cast of characters. But the book overall just lacks something; spark, maybe. It sets up for a good story, but there's far too much foreshadowing; instead of creating drama or suspense it actually reveals too much and spoils the ending. I hate that, especially here where there isn't a lot going on to begin with.

The love story was, again, lacking. Elise&Kit was sweet, but didn't make much sense to me because Kit seemed rather too childish for Elise, who had already begun to mature beyond her years as a result of her intimidating immigration and the uncertainty of her parents' fates.

Alice&Daniel was just weird, and a lot harder to believe. There were very early clues of Daniel's love, but no indication that Alice ever felt anything except gratitude for him, thus making it seem like she settled for him. I would have preferred that Daniel be Kit's older brother, perhaps, or been made to be a surrogate father to Alice, which made much more sense. In any case, Alice&Daniel was wrapped up way too quickly to be acceptable.

There's also a bit in the conclusion reminiscent of the final scene in Titanic and for that alone I could persecute this book to no end. In more ways than one, this novel does definitely try to be something more than it is. But it's still readable, it's just not epic.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard going disappointment, July 12, 2012
This review is from: The House at Tyneford: A Novel (Paperback)
I was so eager to read this book. I'd read fantastic reviews and couldn't wait for it to arrive. I love this era, all of Kate Morton's books and anything to do with evacuees, Land girls and women in WW2. I can't say how horribly disappointed I was. Lengthy descriptions that I began skipping over when I saw she was getting into a paragraph worth of vermillion flowers, unsympathetic and unbelievable characters, an obvious 'twist' at the end and such a waste of a great idea made this book incredibly annoying and hard going. I can't believe I finished it to be honest. I am only sending in this review to counteract all the gushing 4 and 5 stars out there and for anyone who feels like me. Surely I'm not completely alone.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Meh., January 10, 2013
This review is from: The House at Tyneford: A Novel (Paperback)
The House at Tyneford starts out with so much promise, then falls apart. I wanted so much more from this book, especially after reading so many promising reviews.
I am writing this review 6 months after reading the book, and only because it popped up in "customers that bought this book also purchased" feed. I feel that I can't leave my review unsaid with so much undeserved positive feedback out there.
The romantic storyline, which is the main storyline, is completely unbelievable and almost cringe-worthy. Without completely spoiling the book for those that might enjoy it, let's just say that the majority of the story is spent on a romance that makes absolutely no sense and seems to exist for the sole purpose of creating a novel rather than a short story. The ending is predictable, and not particularly gratifying after having wasted so much time on the pages in between.
I give this book two stars only because I did find it hard to put down- even if it was only to prove to myself that I knew the ending that was coming from the very beginning.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Half-baked story, January 3, 2013
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The story starts out interesting and promising enough, but it never gets there. Elise, a jew fleeing Austria, ends up at Tyneford Mansion, in England. You think you'll learn more about her family's destiny in Austria and the U.S., or more about the family at Tyneford and why they end up so enmeshed, but no - things just happen, for no good reason, and are never explained. Characters are not believable and fall in love just because the author says so.
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The House at Tyneford: A Novel
The House at Tyneford: A Novel by Natasha Solomons (Paperback - December 27, 2011)
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