Book Review – The House at Tyneford

What I’ve recently finished:

**The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

What is it about?
Elise Landau is a Jew living in Vienna in the late 1930s. As it becomes more and more unsafe, her family, used to a sophisticated and rather elite life, separate and attempt to leave the country. Elise goes to work as a maid in the House at Tyneford. The story centers on this rather dramatic change in her lifestyle–from elite to service.

Why did I read this?
I love Downton Abbey and naturally I wanted to read some stories set during that time. I found this helpful list on Goodreads and mingled. Granted, The House at Tyneford is set during World War II (as opposed to the first) but it still seemed interesting to me.

What impressed me about this book?

  1. The author clearly gives an impression of the changes Elisa had to go through, as I’ve mentioned before.
  2. The descriptions of the setting. I felt like I was there! (and usually this kind of text, I won’t lie, makes me want to skip a few paragraphs ;-)

 

What disappointed me about this book?
A lot.  This story’s excitement is centered on the house mater”s son, Kit. I won’t include spoilers, of course, but I will say Elise and Kit form a bond and reading this relationship develop was enjoyable. Unfortunately, he’s not present during much of the book so I finished the book almost glad that it was over. It’s a shame too because this story’s premise had potential to be exciting. Unfortunately, for me, it just wasn’t.

Historical Relevance:
For this section I wanted to concentrate on Jews in hiding as servants. Unfortunately no numbers exist (and I don’t think they ever will) on how many Jews fled Nazi-occupied countries under the premise of a job elsewhere in service. That said, I did find some interesting stories centered on women like Elise, who escaped to serve another family AND there were some resistance movements where servants were a pivotal part in plotting and carrying out work of their movements or getting information on the Nazi’s next steps.

  • There is mention here of a maid serving a pivotal role in the Belarusian Resistance during World War II.
  • Here is a story of a woman working as a maid in the Gestapo office where she overheard plans to arrest the father of someone she knew. Upon hearing that, she warned that family
  • There is an exhibit at the Holocaust Museum and Study Center in New York that broadly shows the roles children played in their hiding during the war. Working as field laborers, farmers or servants was quite an effective disguise.

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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