Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review: Rutherford Park

Rutherford Park: A Novel

“Snow had fallen in the night, and now the great house, standing at the head of the valley, seemed like a five-hundred-year-old ship sailing in a white ocean.”

So begins Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke, the story of a great country house on the eve of World War I. The story starts on Christmas Eve, when Octavia Cavendish, the lady of the house, sees her husband in an intimate moment with another woman. At the same time, her son Harry has seduced a maid, with tragic and far- reaching consequences. We are immediately drawn into a world where tradition and propriety are everything. William Cavendish is an earl and a creature of that tradition, proud and unbending, while his wife Octavia chafes under the restrictions placed on her as lady of the house. Harry has dreams of his own, as do his sisters Louisa and Charlotte. And underneath the surface everyone has secrets.   

The story is told from the viewpoint of both family members and servants as lives change and the storm clouds of war gather on the horizon. William has a secret that may change their lives forever, and Octavia has to make a choice between duty and love. In many ways this is the theme of the book. Harry wrestles with guilt over his earlier indiscretions, unaware that he has a child in the world. The servants too must grapple with the changing times- some are anxious to embrace change, while others take comfort in, and are indeed defined by, their traditional ways. It’s a fascinating mélange of luxury and heartbreak, secrets and lies, set against the backdrop of a world plunging into war.   

Rutherford Park is a phenomenal book. If you’re looking for a Downton Abbey vibe, you’ve got it right here. But it’s so much more than  that. It’s a fine story in its own right, and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. This is a book I was sorry to finish. The characters are often achingly real, and the glimpses into the life of this period were fascinating and occasionally harrowing. 

The last page was a joy to read, and symbolic of all the changes that have affected this family throughout the course of the book. Times are indeed changing, and it’s nice to see the family change as well to meet the challenges of the future. There’s a hint of redemption here and it was touching. There is a sequel in the works, and I will be reading it to see where the family, and indeed the estate, go next. If you’re interested in a story about family, love and duty you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Excerpts:

He looked at William. "You kept this secret," he said. "All these bloody years."
William stiffened. "I don't intend-"
"But she came to our house!" Harry exclaimed. "Came here, and to Rutherford. She sat and ate our food and lorded it over the bloody servants..."
"Be quiet," William said.
"Be quiet!" Harry repeated. "Is that what a gentleman does? Be quiet about it?"
"I should think you have little room to maneuver on the subject of being a gentleman," William retorted.

"Whatever ship he came on, he makes himself at home," Harrison said. The plates clattered; the tea was poured. He began to laugh. "And he charms ladies, so I hear. Especially wives."
"Does he?" said Mary. "How would you know?"
"Popular in town. Popular all over. Certain titles."
"That's enough of that," Mrs. Carlisle countered.
"I expect she likes him."
"She's hardly ever at dinner," Nash said. "So I doubt it."
Harrison looked at him. "Do you indeed?" he replied scathingly. "So knowledgeable. Such a man of the world." 

12 comments:

  1. I remember this review when you first posted it - I was very impressed, both by your review and by what it said about the book. I still haven't had a chance to read it, but you've reminded me to bump it up my TBR list a bit.

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    1. Thank you Lark! I hope you get a chance to read it, I thought it ws quite good. I reposted it because the sequel The Wild dark Flowers just came out...

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  2. Is the book that the movie Gosford Park was based on? The premise and the dual perspectives sounds similar. I didn't like the movie but I think it would great in book form. I'll definitely have to give this a try!

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    1. No, Gosford Park wasn't based on this book but it is a similar concept. Not so much a murder mystery but a story about a country house and the family that lives there. I liked Gosford Park and it kinda got me into the whole country house thing... :) I would have enjoyed a book version too!

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  3. I think this sounds like a book I'd enjoy. I have read other "Downton Abbey-inspired" fiction. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it disappoints but it is almost always entertaining to read about the secrets and scandalous lives of the wealthy and their servants during this time period.

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    1. I think you'd like it. The thing that got me was OCtavia and her struggles with a loveless marriage, and her husband trying to change but not knowing how. Plus their kids have stuff going on, and the servants too. Really a great book.

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  4. This sounds wonderful - adding to my wish list now. Thanks!

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    1. I think you'll like it. I'm looking forward to getting into the sequel!

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  5. I have this on my wishlist, and just love the setting, period and view points Greg.

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    1. It really is fascinating to see the different viewpoints, and how different members of the cast deal with changing times. A great read.

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  6. great review, Greg - enjoy the intro and era as well - your cover for #2 in your upcoming reads def apprealling !

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    1. Thank you- I highly recommend it, and am excited to continue the story in the next one.

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