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The House at Tyneford
Natasha Solomon

January 2012 / 978452297647
Historical Fiction / England WWII

Reviewed by Barbara Buhrer

1938 was not a safe time for a Jew to be in Nazi-held Vienna. The Landau family is preparing to flee. Elder daughter, Margot, leaves for a university in California with her husband. The father, Julian, an eminent author, and his wife, Anna, a famous opera singer, have visas for New York with the Metropolitan Opera. There is no Visa possible for 17 year old Ewlise. She applies to an English refugee organization which finds domestic positions for the refugees. Elise is fortunate to obtain one and is to go to Tyneford on the east coast of England as a maid in the manor house of the Rivers. She brings with her only a string of her mother's pearls sewed in the hem of her dress, a copy of her father's unpublished work stuffed in a viola and a copy of Mrs. Breton's Book of Household Management.

She becomes a member of the staff in the household of the Rivers. There she performs tasks far from anything she had ever done in her Vienna society home. She worries about the fate of her parents with no news of their departure. When England declares War she is forced to change her name to avoid being classified as an enemy alien. A young son in the household, Kit, returns from the university and they form a close relationship. Then the war invades their lives. There is tragedy, heartbreak, loss. Only with time can they rebuild their lives.

This is a poignant love story set in a country home in England during World War II.
The author has given a feeling in time and place. This reader had a sense of being there and experiencing all the action. The environment is described in vivid and picturesque detail....making the reader wishing to be there.

This is a story of love, family, courage, tragedy and renewal. The characters are richly drawn with much of the story told in the first person. We learn many of the subtleties of the English social system of that time and the living conditions of the staff in an English manor house. There is historical detail of a family's trouble in the time of Hitler's rise to power.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed 2012