Book Review: The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

Tyneford is based on a now uninhabited village on the coast of southern England named Tyneham.
The main character Elise Landau is based on the authors great aunt, Gabi Landau.
The year is 1938 and Jews are in peril living in Europe. The Nazi's have already began to wreck havoc amongst them: destroying synagogues, businesses, and rounding up Jews for removal to other "areas." The Landau family living in Vienna, Austria are able to obtain a Visa for their youngest daughter Elise age 19. Even though Elise has grown up with servants preparing and caring for her every need. She is to travel to England and become a servant in an estate. It is a chance for her to be safe in another country, far away from Hitler and his madmen. The night before she leaves her father gives her an unfinished story he has written and hidden in a viola. Elise's father wants her to take it to England and when they are reunited she can return it to him. Soon after Elise arrives in England, her sister Margot and her husband with their new Visa's emigrate to California, USA. Elise and Margot wait to hear if their parents will be able to leave Austria as well and join them. Upon arriving in England Elise feels as if she is in another world, feeling desperately alone without her family. She thinks often of her dear parents---Anna and Julian. Anna is an opera singer. Even though Elise has always felt inferior and like a black swan to her older more beautiful and talented sister Margot, she misses her as well. Elise begins her work at Tyneford house on the southern coast of England. The current servant staff teaches her new responsibilities with patience. Elise's days are spent cleaning, polishing, preparing, and following orders from the servant staff at Tyneford. Mr. Rivers the owner of Tyneford house is in his early 40's, he is a widow. His son Kit is in his early 20's. Kit arrives home from college and he and Elise become friends. This friendship grows, which causes dishevel in the house, because Elise is a servant and the two society classes do not mix. Meanwhile, Elise waits eagerly for a letter from her parents as the war in Europe begins and the intolerance and abuse of Jew's worsen.

I chose this book because it was recommended for those that have loved the Downton Abbey series.
I did love this book!
The authors themes in this book are:
1. The story between Elise and Kit; their youth and vigor that is trapped by the war.
2. Elise's anxiety and sadness over her family being torn apart and separated.
3. Elise's domestic duties are written about; but the emphasis I believe is on her character growth, that came about through being away from family, and the responsibility that developed from hard work and duty.
4. All the characters had feelings of apprehension and anxiety, yet the English's attitude was of stoicism (stiff upper lip) about the war.
5. Elise was hidden from the Holocaust that was happening to Jew's in Europe. It is as if a dark heavy veil is between her and her parents, she knows that it is a frightening thing that is happening, yet she is unaware of the horrifying atrocities and genocide. She is left to assume what must be happening, the fear of unknown haunts her. This story explores an aspect I've not read about yet, a Jew that made it safely out of Europe.
I felt this story is well-written and I enjoyed reading it. The descriptions of the county of Devon where Tyneford is written about I felt as if I were seeing it as well.

First American Printing Published in 2012 by Plume
Novel in the Viola was original title in Great Britain by Sceptre Books 2011
368 pages
Historical Fiction/World War II/Holocaust/Servant Class

Authors site:

Link @ Barnes and Nobles:
Paperback $10.98
Nook $9.99


  1. I really need to get my hands on this book!

    I've read a few stories about Jews who made it out of Europe. The graphic novel about the comic book artist Lily Renee, Become Alice by Alice Rene, and The Year of Goodbyes by Debbie Levy come to mind right away. I liked all of those.


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