Friday, January 20, 2012

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

The House at Tyneford is one book you cannot put down.  It tells the story of a young Jewish girl--Elise Landau, from Vienna, who is forced to part from her mother--an opera singer, her father, a novelist, and her older sister during 1938 and the beginning of the dark cloud of Hitler and Jewish oppression.  Elise is granted a visa to travel to England to work in an English manor house as a servant, while her parents, sister, and brother-in-law plan to travel to the United States for safety.  Her parents are unable to procure a visa for her to the US, so England is the safest place for her.  Reluctantly she says goodbye to her family, carrying a viola with her father's last novel tucked inside for safekeeping.  

Elise finds herself on the coast of England in a small, very rural area that is overseen by Tyneford, the great manor where Mr. Rivers and his son Kit live in isolated, very British splendor. Not knowing much English, Elise is horribly homesick and feels very lost.  Desperate for word from her family, letters are written and then the wait begins, for many years, on word from her family.  Meanwhile, Elise slowly accustoms herself to the beauty of Tyneford, the charm of Kit, and the surrounding sea that pulls at her soul.  Elise realizes her life will never  again be in Vienna, and she will never again be the same person.  

As the war begins, it looms over the countryside and takes it's toll.  Elise finds herself becoming someone very different from the young girl who arrived deathly afraid and clutching her mother's party dress.  And still she waits to hear from her Mother, and from Margot, her sister who makes it to California safely.  

I loved this book.  The writing is simply beautiful and conveys such beauty, peacefulness, and sadness at a time when the world was in chaos.  The story is both sad and uplifting, as Elise finds love in more ways than she can imagine, and a knowledge about herself and her place at Tyneford.  

Anyone who enjoys novels about World War 2, anyone who likes Kate Morton, or historical fiction will eagerly read this novel.  It's one you finish, dry your eyes, then clutch to your chest for a while, lingering over the characters who have laughed, cried, and danced in your mind for a few hours.  

My rating:  4/5    Available in paperback and as an ebook.

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