The House at Tyneford

( 80 )

Overview

The start of an affair, the end of an era.

Fans of Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden, Catherine Bailey's The Secret Rooms, and TV's Downton Abbey will love this New York Times bestselling sweeping historical novel of love and loss. It's the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlor maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, ...

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Overview

The start of an affair, the end of an era.

Fans of Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden, Catherine Bailey's The Secret Rooms, and TV's Downton Abbey will love this New York Times bestselling sweeping historical novel of love and loss. It's the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlor maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, where servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn. But war is coming, and the world is changing. When the master of Tyneford's young son, Kit, returns home, he and Elise strike up an unlikely friendship that will transform Tyneford—and Elise—forever.

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Editorial Reviews

Kristin Hannah
"Natasha Solomons has written a lovely, atmospheric novel full of charming characters and good, old fashioned storytelling. Fans of Downton Abbey and Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden will absolutely adore The House at Tyneford."
Kathleen Grissom
"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."
Katherine Howe
"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."
Time Magazines Literary Supplement (London)
"Both a love story set during the Second World War and an elegy to the English country house . . . the greatest pleasure of the novel is its stirring narrative and the constant sense of discovery."
-Times Literary Supplement (London)
"Both a love story set during the Second World War and an elegy to the English country house . . . the greatest pleasure of the novel is its stirring narrative and the constant sense of discovery."
-Psychologies Magazine (UK)
"A vivid and poignant story about hope, loss, and reinvention."
-Kristin Hannah
"Natasha Solomons has written a lovely, atmospheric novel full of charming characters and good, old fashioned storytelling. Fans of Downton Abbey and Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden will absolutely adore The House at Tyneford."
-Kathleen Grissom
"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."
-Katherine Howe
"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."
-The Times (London)
"A deeply touching and blissfully romantic elegy for a lost world."
Times Literary Supplement (London)
"Both a love story set during the Second World War and an elegy to the English country house . . . the greatest pleasure of the novel is its stirring narrative and the constant sense of discovery."
Psychologies Magazine (UK)
"A vivid and poignant story about hope, loss, and reinvention."
The Times (London)
"A deeply touching and blissfully romantic elegy for a lost world."
From the Publisher
"Natasha Solomons has written a lovely, atmospheric novel full of charming characters and good, old fashioned storytelling.  Fans of Downton Abbey and Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden will absolutely adore The House at Tyneford."—Kristin Hannah, New York Times bestselling author of Fly Away

"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

Library Journal
In 1938 Vienna, where it's no longer safe to be Jewish, 19-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her family and her upper-class lifestyle. As her parents await a visa to travel to New York and her sister prepares for a new life in California with her husband, Elise ventures off to the English countryside to serve as a maid in Christopher Rivers's ancestral home. Finding it difficult to adapt to her new station, the naive Elise yearns at first to rejoin her family. But with no end to the war in sight, Elise soon grows to love the house and everyone in it, including Christopher's reckless, impulsive son, Kit. Her newfound happiness is spoiled only when she learns that her parents are still in Vienna and that the war might claim the lives of those she loves the most. VERDICT Although certain parts are overwritten and drag, Solomons's (Mr. Rosenblum's List) 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.—Natasha Grant, New York
Library Journal
"When I close my eyes I see Tyneford House." That's a Rebecca-like opening, but this intent and detailed work by the author of the delightful Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English goes beyond romantic suspense. In spring 1938, Elise Landau gets out of an increasingly dangerous Vienna by applying to be a servant in a grand English home—never mind that she's wealthy and privileged, with an opera star mother and novelist father. Once she's at Tyneford, she must deal not only with the upstairs-downstairs mentality of the British but with inevitable prejudice because she is Jewish. Charming yet serious; book clubs should relish.
Library Journal
Elise must leave her glittering life in 1938 Vienna to become a parlor maid in an English manor house. Falling in love with the master's son throws Elise into a life heretofore unimagined as the world around her is in similar upheaval. VERDICT An old-fashioned novel with a modern tone set in the World War II era, with all the tragedy and survival spirit of the time. (LJ 12/11)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452297647
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/27/2011
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 89,209
  • Product dimensions: 5.35 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Natasha Solomons is a screenwriter and the New York Times bestselling author of The Gallery of Vanished Husbands, The House at Tyneford, and Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English. She lives in Dorset, England, with her husband and young son.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

With the advent of World War II fast approaching in Europe, Elise Landau and her family realize that it is no longer safe for Jews in Austria. Elise’s father, Julian, and her mother Anna, a novelist and a singer respectively, urge her to advertise herself as a domestic servant in England and trade the loving, bourgeois lifestyle to which she was born for an interim life of servitude away from the Nazi threat. Traveling with only her clothes, a few smuggled keepsakes, and Julian’s secret unpublished manuscript hidden in an old viola, Elise embarks with great trepidation for her new life at the estate of Tyneford, owned by Christopher Rivers.

Between worrying about her still endangered parents and struggling to adjust to her new life, Elise learns very quickly how much she has left behind. But when Mr. Rivers’ fun–loving son, Kit, returns home, a romance erupts between him and Elise that challenges the aristocratic orthodoxy. Despite his devotion, Kit gets pulled into the war, in a test of their love and the fading of a bygone era.

The House at Tyneford is a story of the possibility of transcending social and class boundaries, as well as a novel about tradition, change, loss, and enduring love.

ABOUT NATASHA SOLOMONS

Natasha Solomons is a screenwriter and the internationally bestselling author of Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English. She lives with her husband in Dorset, England.

A CONVERSATION WITH NATASHA SOLOMONS

Q. Tyneford is as much a character as any of its denizens. How did you go about sculpting the setting for this novel? What importance does a setting have for you and your characters?

The inspiration for Tyneford is Tyneham, a “ghost” village on the Dorset coast forcibly abandoned during the Second World War. The story in the novel of how the village was emptied is based on fact. There was a great manor house there, but I’ve never seen it—it lies deep within the Ministry of Defence lands and is still part of a firing range. Footpaths run along the coast and past a few of the ruined cottages (they are bullet ridden and mostly collapsed) but visitors are only allowed occasionally. The place has haunted me since childhood and writing the novel was really like playing a vast game of doll’s houses: I was able to fill the manor and cottages with people again and imagine the village as it might have been. I found some old photographs and floor plans of the house in a book, which I pinned above my desk, and my husband discovered a Victorian print of it in a little shop and had it framed for my birthday. I think that houses like Tyneford belong to a period with staff and servants. I love the romance, but I think my stone cottage is a bit more manageable. Even so, I do love a mullioned window.

The sea is very important in the novel. It both divides Elise from the people she loves and haunts her dreams, but also it provides some sort of solace. From everywhere in Tyneford, she can hear the sound of the sea—I think over time that has a profound affect on you. The sea is certainly a character within the novel.

Q. This story begins at the threshold of World War II. What sort of research did you do in preparation for writing this novel? What challenges did you face in the process? What elements of the time period did you focus on to achieve authenticity?

I immersed myself in literature of the period. I spent weeks in the summer house at the bottom of the garden, reading classic books from Mariana to Mollie Panter–Downes’ wartime stories, as well as lots of Daphne du Maurier, Evelyn Waugh, and nonfiction accounts of life in service and the country house tradition. My husband and I also had a season watching old movies like Brief Encounter, In Which We Serve, and the original series of Brideshead Revisited—movies really help me tune my ear to the speech patterns. I like to be gently marinated in the culture and time period before I start to write, then I find it feels instinctive.

Q. Elise Landau is thrust into a demoralizing situation but comes out a strong female character. From whom did you draw inspiration for Elise? What aspects of her story were most interesting for you to write about?

Elise Landau is inspired by my great–aunt Gabi Landau, who, with the help of my grandmother, managed to escape Nazi Europe by becoming a “mother’s help” in England. Many refugees escaped this way on a “domestic service visa”—swapping cosseted lives for the harsh existence of English servants. I read a series of articles by Austrian and German women who had been domestic servants in Britain, and also spoke to several ladies in London. One woman I spoke to had never even put on her own stockings before she came to England—she had a maid to do it for her. In London she became a char (a kind of cleaner).

Elise likes to think of herself as a heroine. The word makes her want to stand very tall and flick her hair. Elise was so easy to write, an absolute pleasure. When I started writing, I realised that she wanted me to get out of the way and let her tell her own story. I think in this instance I felt rather like I was the reader.

Q. Elise gets a pearl necklace from her mother. Have you ever had a very special gift from someone before? Would you tell me something more about that, why was it so special for you, etc.?

Many of the objects in the novel are real and have been passed down through my family. Elise’s pearl necklace was my grandmother’s and now belongs to my mother. The painting of Elise as a young girl is inspired by a painting of my grandmother from about 1920—she wears a white muslin dress, jaunty headband, and white socks. Her dark hair is bobbed and she smiles as though about to laugh, as her eyes follow you about the room. As a child, I spent hours gazing at her and wondering how it was that wherever I sat—on the sofa, under the table, peeking out from behind the curtain—that she still watched me. That girl became the image for Elise Landau—the portrait inspiring both Elise’s physical likeness and also the irreverent mischief of her personality.

Other paintings and jewels smuggled to England similarly found their way into the story (the chunky gold bracelet that generations of Landau babies had been given to teethe upon, the silver bell that was rung to summon diners into a thousand dinners).

Q. The House at Tyneford is epic in scope and theme. What do you want your readers to take away from this novel? What parallels do you see between Elise’s story and the world of today?

The stories I write are often about characters at the edge of history—they are affected by epic events but do not experience them directly; for instance, when Elise is left behind while the men go off to war. She sees the damage, physical and psychological, as the men return from Dunkirk, but she is not there herself. Waiting and uncertainty for those at home is an aspect of every conflict. In a way the novel is about silences and the empty spaces people leave behind when they vanish. The music and the sea are huge parts of the novel, filling it with sounds, which are punctuated by these silences Elise feels as people she loves disappear.

Q. Why do you think the novel in the viola is blank?

I think that this is really a question for the reader to decide. It might be damage from the salt sea air or smoke. It’s possible that Julian made a mistake and inserted a void copy. But I suppose I believe that Julian always knew that one day his daughter would be a writer and like every writer she’d be unable to face a blank page and resist the urge to fill it. I think perhaps it was his last gift to her.

Q. What are you working on now?

I’m lost in my third novel The Gallery of Vanished Husbands. I’m not ready to talk about it just yet—I’m at that greedy stage of writing when I keep my characters close. Also, I think one has to be wary—new books are fragile things in the beginning and one has to be careful not to talk them out of existence.

Q. Tyneford is as much a character as any of its denizens. How did you go about sculpting the setting for this novel? What importance does a setting have for you and your characters?

The inspiration for Tyneford is Tyneham, a “ghost” village on the Dorset coast forcibly abandoned during the Second World War. The story in the novel of how the village was emptied is based on fact. There was a great manor house there, but I’ve never seen it—it lies deep within the Ministry of Defence lands and is still part of a firing range. Footpaths run along the coast and past a few of the ruined cottages (they are bullet ridden and mostly collapsed) but visitors are only allowed occasionally. The place has haunted me since childhood and writing the novel was really like playing a vast game of doll’s houses: I was able to fill the manor and cottages with people again and imagine the village as it might have been. I found some old photographs and floor plans of the house in a book, which I pinned above my desk, and my husband discovered a Victorian print of it in a little shop and had it framed for my birthday. I think that houses like Tyneford belong to a period with staff and servants. I love the romance, but I think my stone cottage is a bit more manageable. Even so, I do love a mullioned window.

The sea is very important in the novel. It both divides Elise from the people she loves and haunts her dreams, but also it provides some sort of solace. From everywhere in Tyneford, she can hear the sound of the sea—I think over time that has a profound affect on you. The sea is certainly a character within the novel.

Q. This story begins at the threshold of World War II. What sort of research did you do in preparation for writing this novel? What challenges did you face in the process? What elements of the time period did you focus on to achieve authenticity?

I immersed myself in literature of the period. I spent weeks in the summer house at the bottom of the garden, reading classic books from Mariana to Mollie Panter–Downes’ wartime stories, as well as lots of Daphne du Maurier, Evelyn Waugh, and nonfiction accounts of life in service and the country house tradition. My husband and I also had a season watching old movies like Brief Encounter, In Which We Serve, and the original series of Brideshead Revisited—movies really help me tune my ear to the speech patterns. I like to be gently marinated in the culture and time period before I start to write, then I find it feels instinctive.

Q. Elise Landau is thrust into a demoralizing situation but comes out a strong female character. From whom did you draw inspiration for Elise? What aspects of her story were most interesting for you to write about?

Elise Landau is inspired by my great–aunt Gabi Landau, who, with the help of my grandmother, managed to escape Nazi Europe by becoming a “mother’s help” in England. Many refugees escaped this way on a “domestic service visa”—swapping cosseted lives for the harsh existence of English servants. I read a series of articles by Austrian and German women who had been domestic servants in Britain, and also spoke to several ladies in London. One woman I spoke to had never even put on her own stockings before she came to England—she had a maid to do it for her. In London she became a char (a kind of cleaner).

Elise likes to think of herself as a heroine. The word makes her want to stand very tall and flick her hair. Elise was so easy to write, an absolute pleasure. When I started writing, I realised that she wanted me to get out of the way and let her tell her own story. I think in this instance I felt rather like I was the reader.

Q. Elise gets a pearl necklace from her mother. Have you ever had a very special gift from someone before? Would you tell me something more about that, why was it so special for you, etc.?

Many of the objects in the novel are real and have been passed down through my family. Elise’s pearl necklace was my grandmother’s and now belongs to my mother. The painting of Elise as a young girl is inspired by a painting of my grandmother from about 1920—she wears a white muslin dress, jaunty headband, and white socks. Her dark hair is bobbed and she smiles as though about to laugh, as her eyes follow you about the room. As a child, I spent hours gazing at her and wondering how it was that wherever I sat—on the sofa, under the table, peeking out from behind the curtain—that she still watched me. That girl became the image for Elise Landau—the portrait inspiring both Elise’s physical likeness and also the irreverent mischief of her personality.

Other paintings and jewels smuggled to England similarly found their way into the story (the chunky gold bracelet that generations of Landau babies had been given to teethe upon, the silver bell that was rung to summon diners into a thousand dinners).

Q. The House at Tyneford is epic in scope and theme. What do you want your readers to take away from this novel? What parallels do you see between Elise’s story and the world of today?

The stories I write are often about characters at the edge of history—they are affected by epic events but do not experience them directly; for instance, when Elise is left behind while the men go off to war. She sees the damage, physical and psychological, as the men return from Dunkirk, but she is not there herself. Waiting and uncertainty for those at home is an aspect of every conflict. In a way the novel is about silences and the empty spaces people leave behind when they vanish. The music and the sea are huge parts of the novel, filling it with sounds, which are punctuated by these silences Elise feels as people she loves disappear.

Q. Why do you think the novel in the viola is blank?

I think that this is really a question for the reader to decide. It might be damage from the salt sea air or smoke. It’s possible that Julian made a mistake and inserted a void copy. But I suppose I believe that Julian always knew that one day his daughter would be a writer and like every writer she’d be unable to face a blank page and resist the urge to fill it. I think perhaps it was his last gift to her.

Q. What are you working on now?

I’m lost in my third novel The Gallery of Vanished Husbands. I’m not ready to talk about it just yet—I’m at that greedy stage of writing when I keep my characters close. Also, I think one has to be wary—new books are fragile things in the beginning and one has to be careful not to talk them out of existence.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Who is Elise Landau? When we first meet her, she is about to become a domestic servant in England. What draws you to this character?
  • Poppy observes that Tyneford is “an odd place.it’s not like anywhere else.” What is your first impression of the Tyneford estate and its environs? How is it different from Elise’s life in Vienna and what she expects? How does it differ from what you expected?
  • What personal and cultural sacrifices does Elise make in her transition from Austria to her new life in England? How does her role as domestic servant affect her? How does the staff see her? How does Mr. Rivers see her?
  • Elise points out how different Kit is from other boys she knows. What is your first impression of Kit? Are you drawn to him? How would you describe his relationship with his father, Mr. Rivers?
  • A confrontation with Diana inspires Elise to shock the partygoers during Kit’s birthday. What was your reaction to this moment? How did it affect Kit and Elise’s relationship? How did it change the way Mr. Rivers and the staff at Tyneford saw Elise?
  • What sacrifices does Mr. Rivers make to help Elise and her family? What did this tell you about Mr. Rivers? How would you describe his feelings toward Elise as the novel progresses?
  • Kit and Elise’s romance stirs up a great deal of emotion in and around Tyneford. What is your opinion of how Mr. Rivers receives the news of Kit’s love for Elise? What social and class challenges do you feel Kit and Elise faced?
  • What was your opinion of Kit’s decision regarding his involvement in the war? What do you feel motivated him in this decision? How did his relationships with Elise and his father affect his decision?
  • What happens to Kit? How does this affect Elise and Mr. Rivers? How does it affect the relationship between them?
  • The danger of war comes home when Elise spots a German fighter flying near Tyneford. What is significant about this event? What do you gather about Elise’s character from her reaction to this moment?
  • What does Elise discover about the novel Julian hid in the viola? What did you make of this turn of events? What impact does it have on Elise? What piece of work does the novel inspire and what significance does it have for Elise in the end?
  • What is your opinion of where Mr. Rivers and Elise’s relationship ends up? As you see it, what events led to Tyneford’s fate? What significance did Tyneford have to Elise, Kit, and Mr. Rivers? Can a place like Tyneford exist in today’s world?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 80 )
Rating Distribution

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(36)

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(12)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 80 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Historical Fiction Fans Will Enjoy!

    if you are looking for a read that makes you feel as if you are right there in the story and not just reading it, look no farther.

    Elise is used to the comfy life in Vienna. When that life is threathened by the growing events of WW2, she is sent to be a parlor maid in England. Life at Tyneford is hard to adjsut to, but it all changes when she becomes friends with Kit, the son of Tyneford's owner. They fall in love & intend to marry. Before they do, Kit goes off to fight in the war. Alise & Kit's father are forced to leanon one another to get through the roller coeaster of the war.

    From being shot at by an enemy plane, to being taken by the police, & the discrimination, The House At Tyneford takes you through everything having to do with the war.

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 13, 2012

    Loved it!!

    I absolutely loved this book and hated for it to end. Hopefully there will be a sequel. If you loved "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" you will not be disappointed with this read.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    Great Read

    This book started out slow for me but, by mid-way through, I couldn't put it down!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2012

    Check it out

    Wow! This novel had me hooked from the get-go! I could hardly put it down! It is pretty dense with clues and hints about what is going on so it took a while to read. But it is wonderfully written. And now that I have finished it - I am starting over!

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2012

    Great Book

    I loved this book, it was one of those books you just don't want to end. It takes you away to another place and time. Excellent book...

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 21, 2012

    A beautiful story was told from beginning to end, now one of my

    A beautiful story was told from beginning to end, now one of my favorite books!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 13, 2012

    Highly recommend

    Wonderful book. I had just finished reading "Beasts in the Garden" and this was a good follow-up book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2012

    What a great read!!

    I couldn't put this book down. Except when I was nearing the last chapters I would stop reading for a few minutes (I didn't want the story to end) but I needed to know what was to happen so I began reading again
    to the end

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2012

    Written with the feel of the Victorian novel, this book is much

    Written with the feel of the Victorian novel, this book is much more. The tone is sometimes light, sometimes romantic and sometimes tragic, but it is never overbearing. This book is about the memories of a house and the lives of the people who dwelled within it, during a time of terrible turmoil. All of them are well defined and interesting characters who come to life on the page.

    It begins in Austria, during the early years of Hitler’s onslaught. The dangers facing the Jews are just beginning. Their plight and possible escape routes are explored and painted realistically so that the menacing situation is truly experienced. The Jewish question is dealt with as a theme, and it, along with the coming war, moves the story along.

    The time is 1938 and Vienna is no longer a safe haven for Jews. Although they formerly thought of themselves as Viennese Jews, they soon discovered that they were simply Jews to the third Reich and nothing more. Humiliations and deprivations were heaped upon them, and those that could began to leave and go to other countries. Elise Landau's parents were waiting for their visa to America, her sister Margo had married and was leaving for California, but she, unable to secure a visa, was to become a servant in a manor home in England.

    Afraid and alone, unsure of her next move, she departs by train for her new life. Instead of being served and waited upon, as she was used to, she would now be the servant in Tyneford House for the Rivers family, simply because she was a Jew, unable to remain safely in her own country. She was hoping that her parents would soon be able to secure a visa for her and bring her to America too, but for now, she was to work there for a year. She was 19 and ill prepared for the future that faced her. However, she was accepted into the Rivers household, and although life was hard, it was a bit better than she expected it to be. Mr. Rivers, the master of Tyneford treated her kindly, and she soon met his very charming, eligible bachelor son, Kit. They were from different worlds, of different religions and different stations in life, but still, an easy relationship developed. There were some times, when Elise’s behavior, and the way she interacted with the other characters, left the reader wondering if it was plausible. Overall, though, the story depicted the history of events, fairly accurately.

    The class divisions, between the gentry and the servants, was very clearly defined. The upper classes were waited upon and the lower classes served. However, they looked upon their profession with respect and everyone had a place and knew and respected it. Elise must now learn hers.
    The book really illuminated the deprivation caused by war, the degradation of the normal rhythm of life, until finally, false hopes mixed with the realization that there was no escape from the reality of the war with its hardships amd suffering. The false hopes that lingered were just that, false hopes; the war would not end quickly, lives would be lost. As one group complained of its suffering, another suffered far worse. Only at the end would the true measure of the destruction be calculated.

    All of the characters were well drawn, from the highly professional Mrs. Ellsworth and proper Mr. Wrexham to the friendly and sweet Poppy and petty and haughty Diana, from Elise and her talented family, sister Margo, and parents Julian and Anna, to carefree, rambunctious Kit and his highly respected and gentlemanly father, Christopher Rivers, the squire of Tyneford; they all came alive with the authors apt descriptions.

    I loved the book. It was historic fiction, a war story and a romance novel. Every sentence was crafted carefully to provide a beautiful visual image. I walked on the sandy beach at Tyneford with Elise, I felt her trepidation on the train to England, I felt her fear for her parents’ safety as she waited in her attic room for letters, and I felt her happiness as she fell in love. I listened to the book in an audio version and found the reader to be so expressive and able to change her voice to match each character so well, that I was never confused and I felt all of their emotions, their joy, their sadness, their pain.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Elise Landau, a 19 year-old Viennese-born young lady, is forced

    Elise Landau, a 19 year-old Viennese-born young lady, is forced to leave Austria due to the Nazi occupation. A life of luxury, with a famous writer father and opera singer mother, is transformed into a world where Elise is now a servant in an upper class English country family. Tyneford is a magical, fairy-tale land of beauty on land and the sea. Grievously homesick and missing the rest of her family, she waits for word from them while adapting to this new, difficult change in social status!

    It turns out her sister and husband have made it to America but Julian and Anna have been unable to obtain a visa to leave Austria, but Elise doesn't know that. So at least Elise can hold onto hope while learning to adapt to the life of a maidservant. The novel fluctuates between her struggles to fit into this very different life and her finding peace as she gradually explores the beautiful land around her new home. Little by little, a normalcy develops until the son of her employer, Kit Rivers. They become friends who love the land and also love an occasional bout of unacceptable behavior that is quite harmless but shocks the daylights of both Mr. Rivers and Mr. Wrexham and Mrs. Ellsworth, the two who trained her in her hob duties. Wild and fun, these actions become the tie that draws them into a deeper closeness.

    War changes everything and it's no different for Kit, Else, Mr. Rivers, the rest of the household staff, and the remaining fishers, farmers, and shepherds of Tyneford. The Germans begin to bomb Britain and the residents of Tyneford have their own secret defense force, helpless in a way to prevent the carnage of war but strong in a belief in their power to protect, a belief that ennobles all of Tyneford. Kit joins the military but quickly returns in a wounded state. Soon he will recover and leave, and from here the unbelievable happens. Relationships change in a way never anticipated by the reader and keep him or her rapidly turning pages to determine the possible, anticipated outcome.

    The House of Tyneford is a lovely book, soft and fierce in all the right places, and a tale that tells the wartime tale in so many different points of view, adding several subplots of care and love to warm the heart and elicit intrigue in all involved. Nicely done, Ms. Solomons!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2013

    Excellent book!!  (listened to the audio version)  Well written

    Excellent book!!  (listened to the audio version)  Well written and a stellar job by the narrator. Hated for it to end. NS is my new favorite author.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    Good

    I didn't think I was going to like this book but it was actually very good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Great read

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Great characters, plot and ending. If you enjoy WWII british novels read it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2013

    I truly enjoyed this book!  It was a wonderful read, realistic a

    I truly enjoyed this book!  It was a wonderful read, realistic and descriptive as a whole.  I did sort of guess what was going to transpire from the beginning of the book, but it was so interesting to see how one growing up with servants becomes a servant themselves.  Living a contradiction and in some sort of limbo.  I found the sister to be a bit dramatic, especially in regards to her actions towards the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2013

    Loved it!

    Engrossing and nostalgic story! My new favorite!

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  • Posted March 24, 2013

    Elise's world turns upside down when she must leave everything a

    Elise's world turns upside down when she must leave everything and everyone she knows and become a parlor made at Tyneford house.  She's homesick for her family and her customs and finds that she does not fit in with the help or with the family of the house.  Elise's journey is one of growth and reflection.




    Overall...
    I really enjoyed this read but this is not your typical historical fiction or WWII read.  The writing and story reads like classic literature and the setting seems more secondary.  So if you choose books based on the genre, I'd take note.




    On the story...
    Again, I enjoyed the story and the character development.  The writing stands out above the rest and Ms. Solomons pays great attention to detail without bogging down the story.  There is little focus on the war but there is much tragedy and this is a sad story.  At first I was a little bothered by the romance in this story but upon reflection it did fit.  For the most part, I never really knew where the story was going.  I didn't know if the resolution would be the ending of the war or reuniting (or not) with her family.  Ultimately, it ended up being a coming of age story but it bothered me that I really couldn't tell as I was listening.




    On the narrator...
    At first I was quite disconnected from Ms. Eyre because I felt Elise sounded too old but then I realized that Elise is telling her story when she is much older and reflecting on her youth.  This realization put the story in perspective and I enjoyed listening.  Ms. Eyre does a fantastic job with the different accents and I really felt like I was there as the story took place.




    Read this if you enjoy classic literature or coming of age stories.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2013

    Mark

    Kicks a rock and walks out

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2013

    Totally engaging, hard to put down

    Facinating look at life during war time and the world of upper class and servants. Descriptive writing paints vivid pictures in the reader's mind. Enjoyed the rugged seaside setting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2013

    This book is warm and charming. Your heart will ache for Elise

    This book is warm and charming.
    Your heart will ache for Elise when she experiences heartache and leap for joy when unexpected happiness arrives.
    Not only does Elise transform, but so does Tyneford House. I never thought I could feel sad for an inanimate object like a house, but I was.
    I hated being done with it - I may just read it again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2013

    Good historical fiction.

    Easy read; enjoyable characters.

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