06 April 2012

The House At Tyneford by Natasha Solomons, Book review


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.

My personal thoughts:

Natasha Solomons was unknown to me when I first spotted a small article in a woman's magazine about this young author. In Decembre 2011 she had just published a beautiful novel* of a young Austrian Jew leaving her family and all that she had ever known and loved for the cold rainy climate of Britain. 
*(UK title is 'The Novel in the Viola')

If the short review of this romantic novel caught my attention, it is entirely due to its introduction:

'Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly. (Notice pinned to the door of Tyneford Church by departing villagers, Christmas Eve 1941)

I found myself adding my name to a long list of (library) readers and could not wait to be introduced to Elise and The house at Tyneford!

With the winds of war blowing over Europe, Elise is urged to move to England in 1938 by her family and finds herself placing an add for temporary employment. She writes 'I will cook your goose'...The add is  spotted by Mr. Rivers, owner of Tyneford house in Dorset and Elise's new life begins.

Natasha Solomons pens an eloquent and deeply moving story, filled with narratives about the running of the great house and its incurring transformations during the late 1930's and subsequent beginning of the war.
It is also a love story and like other love stories it has its bittersweet moments.

Readers will experience Elise's transformation from a well to do society girl to a parlour maid and recall the resilience of a proud country in the face of adversity. 
Natasha Solomons elegy to the enduring English country side of the 1940's reminds us of 'Mrs. Miniver', 'Carrie's War' and 'Goodnight Mr. Tom' and who could tire of this?

Finally I should mention the viola, a hidden novel and the many ghosts wars creates...
This is a story of survival, of heartbreaks and triumphs for one lonely Austrian Jew and the people she comes to know and love.

The author writes of her personal inspiration for this novel, including some very interesting historical notes. 
A book to enjoy without interruption! I am compelled to say a borrowed copy will not do, I must have my own very soon!

5 stars!

Note to readers: As I finish writing this review I feel the need to contact the author and ask if she will clarify something about the hidden novel...Is this perhaps a clue to another story? One can always hope...

About the author:

Natasha Solomons' website (here) reveals she has many talents! For those of us who likes to bake, check out her Baumtorte or Memory Cake (here). Taken from a family recipe book circa 1937 (the things it could tell us if only it could speak...)

A reminder to readers: I was not asked to review this book and received no compensation for doing so. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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