Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The House at Tyneford Readalong - Week 2

This week as part of the House of Tyneford readalong we read chapters 10 to 15 and now we are around half way through the book! I am enjoying it a lot and find it difficult not to race through to the end. Then again, I have that trouble with a lot of readalongs!

Our host, Carrie, hasn't actually set questions for us to discuss this week. She has looked at a few of the characters and prompted us to post about our thoughts on this section. What I wanted to focus on was the writing, and the fact that it is Tuesday suggests that I could do a Teaser and the Teaser will have a Bookish Quote feel to it too! I do love multi-tasking blog posts!

Last week, I mentioned that I had read and enjoyed Natasha Solomons' previous book and so I already knew that I really liked her writing. That doesn't mean that I didn't find myself rereading small sections of the book because I just loved the way that the author was bring the scene to life.

There were a few sections in particular where the author caught my attention. One I don't want to say too much about because there is a charm and sense of fun about the scene that I wouldn't want to spoil. I will say, for the benefit of those who either have read the book or are participating in the readalong, that it was the scene involving fish and the whole village! It was funny and festive, and really indicative of the inclusiveness of the lives of everyone who lives at Tyneford. Given that we know that there are some challenges coming for the village as a whole, I think this was a really good way to show the cohesiveness that crosses the social hierarchy.

The section that I have chosen to quote from has a different tone completely but I was moved, and I loved the final line. To set a bit of context, there has just been a big, emotional confrontation and so Elise, the Austrian Jewess who has come to Tyneford to work as a maid, flees to the library. The author that she mentions below, Julian, is her father, Anna is her mother and Margot her sister.

I padded through the silent hall and into the library. I scanned the bookshelves and, finding what I wanted, reached up and drew down The Spinsters' Diary by Julian Landau, before creeping into the drawing room. The curtains were open and the moon filled the room with cold light, bright enough to read by. I sat cross-legged on the floor, the book open on my lap. It was not my favourite of Julian's novels and Anna actively disliked it, complaining it was unkind. That was why I wanted it with me tonight. With this book in my hands, I could hear my parents row. The three virgin spinsters were the great-aunts. Julian described them in cruel detail, down to the single hair sprouting from the round mole on Gretta's chin. Only in the book she was called Gertrude. Julian insisted that the aunts were transformed by fiction and Gretta, Gerda and Gabrielle (real life) had nothing to do with Gertrude, Grunhilda and Griselda (novel). Anna and the aunts remained unconvinced. When Julian attempted to justify himself over coffee and sachertorte, Gretta grumbled that she did not wish for her wart to be immortalised for eternity. After the aunts withdrew, dignity wounded, a fight echoed through the apartment. To Margot's and my tremendous delight, Anna threw a series of Meissen plates at Julian. We cheered her on from round the nursery door, wondering if she'd succeed in hitting and killing him - "Do you think we shall be orphans? Will Mama wear lipstick in prison?" It was terribly thrilling.

I had understood Anna and the aunts' fury - they were not angered by Julian's lies but by his honesty. He ought not to have stolen from life, but tonight I was grateful he had. As I shivered on the floor in the drawing room of an English country house a thousand miles from Vienna, I could see my aunts in the pages of the book. They smiled up at me, offering me sugar biscuits and grumbling over the supercilious waiters at cafe Sperl. I have no photographs of the aunts, and so they seem almost characters from a children's story - a clutch of creased fairy godmothers, fond of linzertorte and nieces - not quite belonging to the modern world. Yet they are preserved between the pages of Julian's novel like the crushed wings of a butterfly.

I suspect that Elise is destined for heartbreak in more ways than one in the upcoming section and that life at Tyneford is about to be changed irrevocably.


  1. I loved the fish scene, too! I liked how it showed that Tyneford, being more of a fishing village and isolated from the rest of the country in some ways, is different in that the people from the manor house are connected so deeply to the people in the village. It was a great scene.

    And I also love all the references to books. I keep wondering what will happen to Mr. Rivers' library when things get hard....

    I'm glad you're enjoying the book as much as I am!

  2. I had to return this one to the library the other day, but I am planning to get it out again next week. I am loving that you are enjoying it, and your excitement makes me think that I am missing out by not having read it yet!

  3. Carrie, I definitely am.

    Zibilee, I hope you do get to read it!



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