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The House at Tyneford: A Novel Paperback – December 27, 2011
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"The House at Tyneford is a wonderful, old-fashioned novel that takes you back in time to the manor homes, aristocracy and domestic servants of England. In this setting, Natasha Solomons gives us a courageous heroine whose incredible love story will keep you in suspense until the final page."—Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House
“The House at Tyneford is an exquisite tale of love, family, suspense, and survival. Capturing with astonishing detail and realism a vanished world of desire and hope trapped beneath rigid class convention, Natasha Solomons's stunning new novel tells the story of Elise Landau, a Jewish Austrian teenager from a family of artists, who is forced to flee her home in Vienna carrying only a guide to household management and her father's last novel, hidden on pages stuffed inside a viola. Elise hides as a parlor maid in a fine English country estate, but soon she discovers that passion can be found in the most unexpected places. Already a bestseller in Britain, American readers will thrill to The House at Tyneford.”—Katherine Howe, New York Times bestselling author of The House of Velvet and Glass
“Like Downton, this romance compellingly explores the upstairs-downstairs dynamic of estate life.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Solomons’s poignant tale provides richly textured details that hold the reader’s interest. Fans of Ann Patchett will find Solomons’s style similar and will appreciate how the subdued tone and the quiet of the countryside contrast with the roar of war.”—Library Journal
“Halfway though, I was so invested in this gorgeously written story that I could barely read on, fearful that what I wished to happen would never come to pass. Permeated with an exquisite sadness, it reminded me of Atonement . . . I adored this book.”—Donna Marchetti, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
About the Author
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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.
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.
'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.