Upstairs, Downstairs and the Summer House

More Barbara Vine than Elizabeth George with Whatwasdone and Whydoneit being as important as whodunit. This book has a surprising number of passive characters - people who let tradition, circumstance and the will of others determine their fates.

As is often the case, there are several instances of 21st century opinions being voiced by characters from previous centuries. Morton does an admirable job of recreating the "downstairs" world of the servants in a great house although at times it feels slightly cribbed from Upstairs/Downstairs. The narrative is nonlinear, with flashbacks, dictated memories and letters recreating the story of what happened at the house at Riverton one night in 1924.

Grace is a refreshing lead character, starting out in life believing she is fortunate to enter "service" (being a servant in a grand house) only to later grasp the chance to become truly her own woman. Her doppelganger of sorts, Hannah, is more frustrated and frustrating. I couldn't quite make out whether Morton was presenting Hannah as a woman trying to break free of convention or as a woman who never fully matures finding make believe games and secret codes more compelling than real life. Perhaps Morton was trying for both.

Whatever the case this is an entertaining tale, decently written and in Grace, a character whose choices I found myself pondering after I'd finished the book.

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