The Shifting Fog – Kate Morton

Summer 1924: on the eve of a glittering Society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.

Winter 1999: Grace Bradley, 98, one-time house-maid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet's suicide. Ghosts awaken and memories, long consigned to the dark reaches of Grace's mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge; something history has forgotten but Grace never could.

Set as the war-shattered Edwardian summer surrenders to the decadent twenties, The Shifting Fog is a thrilling mystery and a compelling love story.

Genre: Fiction, Edwardian, Romance, Mystery
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Year: 2007
Rating: 4/5

The Shifting Fog (known as The House at Riverton in the US and UK) tells the story of the Hartfords, a family on the verge of falling apart, as told by their former maid, Grace Bradley. 

As a young girl, Grace is sent to work for the Hartfords. A rich, society family who live in the grand Riverton Manor. Grace is a shy fourteen-year-old who yearns for company her own age. Because of this, Grace finds herself drawn to Hannah, one of the Hartford children. 

Grace is extremely loyal and she develops a close friendship with Hannah. Well, as close as you can expect a maid to develop with her mistress. Grace follows Hannah from Riverton, to Paris and London. The perfect companion, always by Hannah's side, watching out for her and completing any task Hannah asks of her, to the point where she forgoes her own happiness in order to serve Hannah.

It is through this close relationship, that we hear Grace's story of the decline of the Hartford family, the secrets Hannah held and what really happened on the night Robbie Hunter killed himself by the lake at Riverton. 

After 84 years of silence, Grace is ready to let go of all her secrets (and those of the Hartfords) and divulge the truth.

Not only do we have the mystery of what happened to Robbie Hunter, but Grace's mother once worked at Riverton and left under mysterious circumstances. Circumstances that Grace is curious about, but which her mother refuses to talk about. This serves as a secondary mystery.

I enjoyed this novel. I like a good story about an Edwardian family living in a grand manor with their secrets. It's formulaic and been done a million times, but I love it anyway. Nothing like an epic family saga full of twists and turns to entertain on a rainy afternoon. This novel provided just that. 

I must admit, I found Grace's loyalty to Hannah a little annoying at times. I liked Grace and wanted her to go live her life! Not live vicariously through Hannah. Then again, we wouldn't have had a story if she did. 

The mystery in this novel was interesting but I was surprised to see it seemed to play a small role in the overall story. Robbie Hunter's demise served as the end of the story, rather than the main plot line, which I thought strange since it is what is mentioned in the blurb. I was expecting the book to be about him, but he was a secondary character. 

This story is about Hannah. It is about Hannah's life and what Grace learned of the Hartford's and Robbie through living with Hannah. Lucky for the reader, Hannah is an endearing character. 

Hannah is brave, feisty and like all good women, unhappy with her lot in life as a female. She wants to travel, see the world and have adventures! She wants to learn new things and experience all life has to offer. Not very ladylike. But in my opinion, all the most interesting women in history went against the norm and fought to live! A female lead that happily sits around crocheting and drinking tea certainly wouldn't make for good reading. 

This, however, is Hannah's undoing, and leads the reader on a journey which is exciting, worrying, frustrating and in the end, tragic.

Grace, although the storyteller, acts as a secondary character to Hannah. Yet her story is just as, if not more, interesting. She may have only been a ladies maid to begin with, but Grace sure packed a lot into her 98 years of life and what a fascinating life it was!

I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves a good family saga about love, loss and life in England during the war. 

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