Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Sleepwalker & The House at Riverton

Back in late November, I received an unexpected email letting me know that I was one of the lucky winners of an advanced copy of The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian, which was released on January 10 of this year. I was selected from the Borrow Read Repeat email that Penguin Random House sends out monthly with information on upcoming books.

I honestly had no idea what to expect when I started reading, however I enjoyed the story, which begins with the disappearance of Annalee Ahlberg, a sleepwalker. The story is told from the perspective of Annalee's 21-year-old daughter, Lianna, who tried to figure out what happened to her mother. She tells the story looking back several years later. Her sister, 10-year-old Paige also searches to figure out what happened the night her mother disappeared. A couple of other characters feature prominently in the story - their father who was out of town when the disappearance occurred and a young detective who remains interested in the case when others in the department have moved on.

Interspersed in the story is information about sleepwalking, as well as sleep sex and sleep violence (which I really didn't know anything about but apparently occur in some cases). While those topics were not ones I would have chosen to read about, they were not done in a way that was overly vulgar or that sabotaged the rest of the story. This was definitely an interesting read, and there was a twist at the end of the book that I did not see coming.

Another book containing a twist that I didn't see coming is The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. I was glad the library book club chose this as one of our books this year because I've heard great reviews of Kate Morton's books.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story! The main story is set in England in the early 1900s (1914-1920s), however it's told from the viewpoint of a 90-year-old woman, Grace, as she looks back and remembers those years when she worked as a servant for the Hartford family at the house at Riverton beginning at the age of 14.

This story is filled with lots of wonderful characters:
*Mr. Hamilton, Ms. Townsend, Alfred, Katie, Nancy - the other servants at Riverton
*Mr. Frederick Hartford - one of the Hartford sons who is grown with three children of his ow when Grace begins working at the Riverton house
*Hannah - Frederick's oldest daughter who longs for adventure and independence
*Teddy - Frederick's son who goes off to fight in World War I
*Emmeline - Frederick's youngest daughter who is beautiful and becomes an actress
*Robbie - a poet who's suicide at the last Hartford party has always been an intriguing mystery

As Grace is looking back to tell the story, all the other characters have passed away and a young director contacts her about a movie she is making about the Hartford family and Robbie's suicide. There are several twists in the story - some I realized early on and a big one at the end that I didn't figure out until right before it was revealed.

I enjoyed Grace's reminiscences as she looked back with the perspective of a lifetime behind her. Here's what she had to say about war:

Wars make history seem deceptively simple. They provide clear turning points, easy distinctions: before and after, winner and loser, right and wrong. True history, the past, is not like that. It isn't flat or linear. It has no outline. It is slippery, like liquid; infinite and unknowable, like space. And it is changeable: just when you think you see a pattern, perspective shifts, an alternative version is proffered, a long-forgotten memory resurfaces.

Have you read either of these books? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. The House at Riverton was the first book by Kate Morton that I ever read. I really liked the book. But I'd say that my favorite is The Lake House---several twists and turns. I have not read the other book, but will look in to it!

  2. Sounds like some great reads, but "The Sleepwalker" sounds especially interesting.

  3. I haven't read either of these. But I really enjoyed that extract about history.

  4. I haven't read either of these, but our book group has read a couple of Chris Bohjalian's books and we found them thought-provoking. Kate Morton has been on my radar for a long time, but I've yet to read any of her books. Thanks, as always, for the reviews!


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