The House at Tyneford: A Novel

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9780452297647: The House at Tyneford: A Novel

Fans of Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden and TV's Downton Abbey will love this sweeping New York Times bestselling historical novel of love and loss. 
The start of an affair, the end of an era.
It's the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlor maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, where servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn. But war is coming, and the world is changing. When the master of Tyneford's young son, Kit, returns home, he and Elise strike up an unlikely friendship that will transform Tyneford—and Elise—forever.

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About the Author:

Natasha Solomons is a screenwriter and the New York Times bestselling author of The Gallery of Vanished Husbands, The House at Tyneford, Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English, and The Song of Hartgrove Hall. She lives in Dorset, England, with her husband and young son.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Table of Contents

Title Page

About the Author

Copyright Page




Chapter One - General Observations on Quadrupeds

Chapter Two - In the Bathtub, Singing

Chapter Three - An Eggcup of Salt Water

Chapter Four - Enough Clouds for a Spectacular Sunset

Chapter Five - The Wrong Door

Chapter Six - Seventeen Gates

Chapter Seven - Mr. Rivers

Chapter Eight - Like Samson I Will Not Cut My Hair

Chapter Nine - Kit

Chapter Ten - Fish and a Rose-Patterned Teacup

Chapter Eleven - Balaam and Balak

Chapter Twelve - Diana and Juno

Chapter Thirteen - The Birthday and Broken Glass

Chapter Fourteen - The End of Us All

Chapter Fifteen - Maybe Tomorrow

Chapter Sixteen - Miss Landau

Chapter Seventeen - Black Dogs and White Gloves

Chapter Eighteen - The Anna

Chapter Nineteen - Witch-Stones

Chapter Twenty - A Gull on the Horizon

Chapter Twenty-one - My Name Is Alice

Chapter Twenty-two - Run, Rabbit, Run

Chapter Twenty-three - Red Flags

Chapter Twenty-four - “We Thank You Kindly for Not Smoking in the Bedrooms”

Chapter Twenty-five - I Live Not Where I Love

Chapter Twenty-six - The Novel in the Viola


Author’s Note

Sneak Peek at The Song of Hartgrove Hall




NATASHA SOLOMONS is a screenwriter and the internationally bestselling author of Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English. She lives with her husband in Dorset, England.





Advance Praise for The House at Tyneford


“Natasha Solomons has written a lovely, atmospheric novel full of charming characters and good, old-fashioned storytelling. Fans of Downton Abbey and Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden will absolutely adore The House at Tyneford.”

—Kristin Hannah, bestselling author of Night Road


The House at Tyneford is a wonderful, old-fashioned novel that takes you back in time to the manor homes, aristocracy, and domestic servants of England. In this setting, Natasha Solomons gives us a courageous heroine whose incredible love story will keep you in suspense until the final page.”

—Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House


The House at Tyneford is an exquisite tale of love, family, suspense, and survival. Capturing with astonishing detail and realism a vanished world of desire and hope trapped beneath rigid class convention, Natasha Solomons’ stunning new novel tells the story of Elise Landau. Already a bestseller in Britain, American readers will thrill to The House at Tyneford.”

—Katherine Howe, author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane


“An engaging read . . . ripe for the screen.”

The Guardian (London)


“I really didn’t want to put this book down. I didn’t just want to know what happened, I wanted to stay with the people and find out how their stories continued. This book is a real gem.”

The Bookseller (London)


Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. · Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) · Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England · Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) · Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) · Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi–110 017, India · Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) · Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa


Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England


First published by Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Originally published in

Great Britain as The Novel in the Viola by Sceptre, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton.


First American Printing, January 2012

Copyright © Natasha Solomons, 2011

All rights reserved

“Concerto in D Minor” composed by Jeff Rona. © 2011 Silkscreen Music. Used with permission of Silkscreen Music.





Solomons, Natasha.

[Novel in the viola]

The house at Tyneford : a novel / Natasha Solomons.

p. cm.

Originally published as: Novel in the viola. London : Sceptre, 2011.

ISBN : 978-1-101-55933-8

1. Household employees—Fiction. 2. Immigrants—Fiction. 3. Jews—England—Fiction. 4. Aristocracy (Social class)—England—Fiction. 5. Great Britain—History—George VI, 1936-1952—Fiction. 6. England—Social life and customs—Fiction. 7. Domestic fiction. I. Title.

PS3619.O4374N68 2011




Set in Adobe Caslon Pro


Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.



This a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrightable materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.




For Mr. S



I am hugely grateful to everyone at Plume, especially my wonderful editors Tara and Pamela. James went above and beyond, agreeing to be shaved by a Mayfair barber wielding a cutthroat razor in the name of research, while Kate allowed me to stuff her viola full of paper. Sotheby’s in London kindly helped me establish the value of a Turner in 1939, and Lisa Curzon generously shared her memories of working in service as a young refugee in 1938. Thanks to Jeff Rona, who composed the viola concerto; to Neel Hammond, who performed the viola part so beautifully; and to Michael Glenn Williams, who played the piano accompaniment (to listen to the music go to Thanks as always to Jocasta; agent Stan; my parents, Carol and Clive; and to my husband and collaborator, David.


Please treat the church and houses with care;
we have given up our homes where many of us lived for
generations to help win the war to keep men free.

We shall return one day and thank you
for treating the village kindly.


—Notice pinned to the door of Tyneford Church
by departing villagers, Christmas Eve, 1941

Chapter One

General Observations on Quadrupeds

When I close my eyes I see Tyneford House. In the darkness as I lay down to sleep, I see the Purbeck stone frontage in the glow of late afternoon. The sunlight glints off the upper windows, and the air is heavy with the scents of magnolia and salt. Ivy clings to the porch archway, and a magpie pecks at the lichen coating a limestone roof tile. Smoke seeps from one of the great chimneystacks, and the leaves on the unfelled lime avenue are May green and cast mottled patterns on the driveway. There are no weeds yet tearing through the lavender and thyme borders, and the lawn is velvet cropped and rolled in verdant stripes. No bullet holes pockmark the ancient garden wall and the drawing room windows are thrown open, the glass not shattered by shellfire. I see the house as it was then, on that first afternoon.

Everyone is just out of sight. I can hear the ring of the drinks tray being prepared; on the terrace a bowl of pink camellias rests on the table. And in the bay, the fishing boats bounce upon the tide, nets cast wide, the slap of water against wood. We have not yet been exiled. The cottages do not lie in pebbled ruins across the strand, with hazel and blackthorn growing through the flagstones of the village houses. We have not surrendered Tyneford to guns and tanks and birds and ghosts.

I find I forget more and more nowadays. Nothing very important, as yet. I was talking to somebody just now on the telephone, and as soon as I had replaced the receiver I realised I’d forgotten who it was and what we said. I shall probably remember later when I’m lying in the bath. I’ve forgotten other things too: the names of the birds are no longer on the tip of my tongue and I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t remember where I planted the daffodil bulbs for spring. And yet, as the years wash everything else away, Tyneford remains—a smooth pebble of a memory. Tyneford. Tyneford. As though if I say the name enough, I can go back again. Those summers were long and blue and hot. I remember it all, or think I do. It doesn’t seem long ago to me. I have replayed each moment so often in my mind that I hear my own voice in every part. Now, as I write them, they appear fixed, absolute. On the page we live again, young and unknowing, everything yet to happen.

When I received the letter that brought me to Tyneford, I knew nothing about England, except that I wouldn’t like it. That morning I perched on my usual spot beside the draining board in the kitchen as Hildegard bustled around, flour up to her elbows and one eyebrow snowy white. I laughed and she flicked her tea towel at me, knocking the crust out of my hand and onto the floor.

Gut. Bit less bread and butter won’t do you any harm.”

I scowled and flicked crumbs onto the linoleum. I wished I could be more like my mother, Anna. Worry had made Anna even thinner. Her eyes were huge against her pale skin, so that she looked more than ever like the operatic heroines she played. When she married my father, Anna was already a star—a black-eyed beauty with a voice like cherries and chocolate. She was the real thing; when she opened her mouth and began to sing, time paused just a little and everyone listened, bathing in the sound, unsure if what they heard was real or some perfect imagining. When the trouble began, letters started to arrive from Venice and Paris, from tenors and conductors. There was even one from a double bass. They were all the same: Darling Anna, leave Vienna and come to Paris/London/New York and I shall keep you safe . . . Of course she would not leave without my father. Or me. Or Margot. I would have gone in a flash, packed my ball gowns (if I’d had any) and escaped to sip champagne in the Champs Elysées. But no letters came for me. Not even a note from a second violin. So I ate bread rolls with butter, while Hildegard sewed little pieces of elastic into my waistbands.

“Come.” Hildegard chivvied me off the counter and steered me into the middle of the kitchen, where a large book dusted with flour rested on the table. “You must practise. What shall we make?”

Anna had picked it up at a secondhand bookstore and presented it to me with a flush of pride. Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management—a whole kilo of book to teach me how to cook and clean and behave. This was to be my unglamorous fate.

Chewing on my plait, I prodded the tome so that it fell open at the index. “‘General Observations on Quadrupeds . . . Mock Turtle Soup . . . Eel Pie.’”I shuddered. “Here.” I pointed to an entry halfway down the page. “Goose. I should know how to cook goose. I said I knew.”

A month previously, Anna had walked with me to the telegraph offices so that I could wire a “Refugee Advertisement” to the London Times. I’d dragged my feet along the pavement, kicking at the wet piles of blossoms littering the ground.

“I don’t want to go to England. I’ll come to America with you and Papa.”

My parents hoped to escape to New York, where the Metropolitan Opera would help them with a visa, if only Anna would sing.

Anna picked up her pace. “And you will come. But we cannot get an American visa for you now.”

She stopped in the middle of the street and took my face in her hands. “I promise you that before I even take a peek at the shoes in Bergdorf Goodmans, I will see a lawyer about bringing you to New York.”

“Before you see the shoes at Bergdorf’s?”

“I promise.”

Anna had tiny feet and a massive appetite for shoes. Music may have been her first love, but shoes were definitely her second. Her wardrobe was lined with row upon row of dainty high heels in pink, grey, patent leather, calfskin and suede. She made fun of herself to mollify me.

“Please let me at least check your advertisement,” Anna pleaded. Before she’d met my father Anna had sung a season at Covent Garden and her English was almost perfect.

“No.” I snatched the paper away from her. “If my English is so terrible that I can only get a place at a flophouse, then it’s my own fault.”

Anna tried not to laugh. “Darling, do you even know what a flophouse is?”

Of course I had no idea, but I couldn’t tell Anna that. I had visions of refugees like myself, alternately fainting upon overstuffed sofas. Full of indignation at her teasing, I made Anna wait outside the office while I sent the telegram:

VIENNESE JEWESS, 19, seeks position as domestic servant. Speaks fluid English. I will cook your goose. Elise Landau. Vienna 4, Dorotheegasse, 30/5.

Hildegard fixed me with a hard stare. “Elise Rosa Landau, I do not happen to have a goose in my larder this morning, so will you please select something else.”

I was about to choose Parrot Pie, purely to infuriate Hildegard, when Anna and Julian entered the kitchen. He held out a letter. My father, Julian, was a tall man, standing six feet in his socks, with thick black hair with only a splash of grey around his temples, and eyes as blue as a summer sea. My parents proved that beautiful people don’t necessarily produce beautiful children. My mother, with her fragile blond loveliness, and Julian so handsome that he always wore his wire-rimmed spectacles to lessen the ef...

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