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KxBurns
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THEMES: Secrets

THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Why are secrets so damaging? Do the characters in the book who keep secrets do so to protect themselves, or others? How might their fates have been different if their secrets were revealed in another manner?

Karen
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Re: THEMES: Secrets----SPOILER WARNING



KxBurns wrote:
THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Why are secrets so damaging? Do the characters in the book who keep secrets do so to protect themselves, or others? How might their fates have been different if their secrets were revealed in another manner?

Karen




SPOILER WARNING-------I hope I've interpreted this correctly Karen to mean we can discuss the theme related to the book as a whole?
Anyone who has finished the book realizes that the outcome would have been totally different if Grace had not kept the secret that she really didn't know shorthand and was not taking lessons. I won't elaborate further until I'm sure about the whole book discussion here. I think Grace kept this secret to protect herself not Hannah. I think this is why the 98 year old reminiscing Grace has some guilty feelings.
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rstjm4
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Re: THEMES: Secrets

Why are secrets so damaging? Do the characters in the book who keep secrets do so to protect themselves, or others? How might their fates have been different if their secrets were revealed in another manner?

There are a few secrets in the book, some that are damaging and others that are not nearly as bad. One of the most obvious secrets is what really happened the night Robbie died. I think that secret is being kept because it would damage the reputation of the all involved. I am not sure of the ending since I am not there yet, but I think that someone actually killed him and to protect everyone they said it was a suicide. This secret would have a huge impact on the lives of everyone involved and their fates would have all been greatly altered, including Grace's.

A smaller secret is that fact that Hannah knows shorthand. I think this secret is one that is not going to make much difference in the fate of the characters. I don't think it would affect their fates in the least. Hannah keeps this secret to protect herself, but I am not sure exactly what she is protecting herself from. Her father? who doesn't want her to have an education or her husband who while seemed to want a wife that liked adventure now wants her to be the lady of the house.

Also who is Grace's father? I still feel that it is Frederick, and I think we will find out in the end. This secret is being kept also to protect the family name, there would have been a huge scandal if it is true that Frederick is Grace's father. This secret hurt Grace to the extent that she grew up poor and a maid, but I think it also gave her a better sense of herself and who she wanted to be.
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Peppermill
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Re: THEMES: Secrets


KxBurns wrote: THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Why are secrets so damaging? Do the characters in the book who keep secrets do so to protect themselves, or others? How might their fates have been different if their secrets were revealed in another manner?
Karen
In general, we have spoken of "secrets" relative to HAR. Are there places where it is appropriate to distinguish between "secrets" and "privacy"?
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Read-n-Rider
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Re: THEMES: Secrets----SPOILER WARNING

Karen (Librarian) wrote:

Anyone who has finished the book realizes that the outcome would have been totally different if Grace had not kept the secret that she really didn't know shorthand and was not taking lessons. I think Grace kept this secret to protect herself not Hannah. I think this is why the 98 year old reminiscing Grace has some guilty feelings.
Librarian






I agree completely. Another important secret was the one kept by Grace's mother concerning Grace's father's identity. I think she felt she was protecting Grace, as the knowledge would probably not have benefited her materially, and likely would have made her employment at Riverton, a position Grace's mom felt would lead to a good life for Grace, impossible.

The secret kept by Hannah and Robbie--that of their relationship--was, however, a selfish one in my opinion. They were protecting themselves from what Teddy's reaction would have been and also being heedless of Emmeline's feelings.

Joan
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Peppermill
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Re: THEMES: Secrets----SPOILER WARNING


Librarian wrote:
SPOILER WARNING-------I hope I've interpreted this correctly Karen to mean we can discuss the theme related to the book as a whole?
Anyone who has finished the book realizes that the outcome would have been totally different if Grace had not kept the secret that she really didn't know shorthand and was not taking lessons. I won't elaborate further until I'm sure about the whole book discussion here. I think Grace kept this secret to protect herself not Hannah. I think this is why the 98 year old reminiscing Grace has some guilty feelings. Librarian


However, it equally important to recognize that this secret did not cause the outcome. Also, we should consider whether that particular secret is the main source of Grace's sense of guilt or guilty feelings. Another, far more profound secret impacted all the sisters and their subsequent lives. And, perhaps more than one secret, depending how one counts and combines.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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ELee
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Re: THEMES: Secrets----SPOILER WARNING


Peppermill wrote:

Librarian wrote:
Anyone who has finished the book realizes that the outcome would have been totally different if Grace had not kept the secret that she really didn't know shorthand and was not taking lessons.


However, its equally important to recognize that this secret did not cause the outcome.



Didn't it though? If Hannah had known that Grace could not read shorthand, she would have communicated the letter's content in a fashion Grace could understand. And I believe that Grace would have honored her request, which would have made the outcome very different.
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IBIS
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Re: THEMES: Secrets----SPOILER WARNING



ELee wrote:
If Hannah had known that Grace could not read shorthand, she would have communicated the letter's content in a fashion Grace could understand. And I believe that Grace would have honored her request, which would have made the outcome very different.




I agree that Grace NOT knowing shorthand is the ultimate disaster of that evening.

Grace kept secret from Hannah that she did not know shorthand; that what Hannah thought they had in common, secretarial training, was not in fact true; Grace, for whatever reason, was not honest with Hannah about the secretarial training. That's one major secret that was the ultimate cause for the disaster of Robbie's death.

IBIS
IBIS

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wendyroba
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Re: THEMES: Secrets

Secrets are probably the biggest theme of the book...and the ending is absolutely orchestrated because of the one secret that seems the most trivial...Grace's inability to read shorthand. I think the message is that family secrets and secrets in general can be very damaging to relationships.
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CherylAnderson
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Re: THEMES: Secrets

Hmmm.... Secrets. I believe the secrets in this book are kept for many purposes. I think Grace keeps here secrets because she doesn't want to lose hold of the relationship she has with the family. If she tells her secrets then she'd lose credibility with the others. Hannah surely wouldn't trust her, the servants would think she wanted to only "gain" higher status and the family would only use the information but would they ever really trust her? Hannah keeps her secrets because she knows that the little freedom she has would be eliminated. She was a women in a time when they weren't allowed to have a voice.
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IBIS
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Re: THEMES: Secrets



Peppermill wrote:
In general, we have spoken of "secrets" relative to HAR. Are there places where it is appropriate to distinguish between "secrets" and "privacy"?




We should not confuse "secrets" that are ultimately damaging, with personal issues of
"privacy"; choosing to keep one's privacy is a basic human right. Some characters may just want to keep certain things in their lives private for their own personal reasons.

For example, Grace's mother exercised her personal right to keep Grace's biological father private; for her own personal reasons, she chose not to tell Grace. We may not agree with her decision, but by itself, it's not a damaging "secret" on the same level as lying about Hannah's actions during the night of Robbie's death.

When readers guessed who Grace's father was, it explained the relationships and behaviors of the characters; but by itself it was not a damaging secret. It didn't harm anyone's reputation (Grace's mother was already disgraced and Grace herself suffered more from her mother's treatment than from not knowing who her father was.)

There is overall theme of personal secrets in HAR, but the secrets vary immensely in seriousness and the levels of damage they caused.
IBIS

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kiakar
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Re: THEMES: Secrets----SPOILER WARNING Grace's secret

Yes, Grace's secret was the most damaging and it didn't even seem that damaging at the time. I think Grace was too embarrassed to tell Hannah she hadn't taken shorthand. Even if she had of revealed where she was going the day Hannah thought she had taken shorthand classes it wouldn't have mattered to Hannah. I do not believe it would have , not at all.
Reading or taking classes she still was trying to better herself, and Hannah understood that when she thought Grace was taking shorthand. That like her, Grace wanted more out of life than being a maid. She had been caught once before holding a note in shorthand she should have been able to read and got by with that one, why Grace didnt confess then, I am not sure. She definitely has alot of pride, and didn't want them to think she didnt know shorthand, but gosh, reading all those books, she was definitely filled with wisdom. And wven if Mr. Hamilton didnt allow books, Hannah wouldnt have told him I am sure.
At first I thought Hannah only took a liking to Grace only for her own benefit to gain for herself, but the more I have read and thought about it, I feel Hannah felt warmth toward Grace, maybe due to the fact she might have suspected or felt Grace was kin to her.
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kiakar
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Re: THEMES: Secrets



wendyroba wrote:
Secrets are probably the biggest theme of the book...and the ending is absolutely orchestrated because of the one secret that seems the most trivial...Grace's inability to read shorthand. I think the message is that family secrets and secrets in general can be very damaging to relationships.


yes, wendy, I think you are quite right.This is certainly the cause of the disaster at the House at Riverton....another title could have been the Secrets at the house of Riverton.
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ELee
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Re: THEMES: Secrets----SPOILER WARNING


IBIS wrote:


ELee wrote:
If Hannah had known that Grace could not read shorthand, she would have communicated the letter's content in a fashion Grace could understand. And I believe that Grace would have honored her request, which would have made the outcome very different.




I agree that Grace NOT knowing shorthand is the ultimate disaster of that evening.

Grace kept secret from Hannah that she did not know shorthand; that what Hannah thought they had in common, secretarial training, was not in fact true; Grace, for whatever reason, was not honest with Hannah about the secretarial training. That's one major secret that was the ultimate cause for the disaster of Robbie's death.

IBIS




I think that for Grace, at first, the secret Hannah thought she shared with her regarding secretarial training and shorthand "elevated" Grace to a status, a relationship that she cherished. But once the secret was out (Hannah told Emmeline), it lost its meaning. And there was not any further occasion for Grace to "come clean" with regards to her presence at Miss Dove's doorstep and lack of training - thus the tragedy...

I'm not sure what the message is here, except that it seems imperative that we be honest from the beginning, that things misunderstood or misinterpreted that we "let go" can somehow come back to haunt us. It certainly wasn't intentional, but that didn't really matter in the end...
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bentley
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Re: THEMES: Secrets - MAJOR SPOILER WITHIN RESPONSE


KxBurns wrote:
THEMES threads are for open discussion of themes throughout the entirety of the book. If you're worried about stumbling across spoilers, read no further!

Why are secrets so damaging? Do the characters in the book who keep secrets do so to protect themselves, or others? How might their fates have been different if their secrets were revealed in another manner?

Karen




Secrets are the seeds of deception. Whether you are withholding information or purposely lying they are both pretty much the same. They both result in some inflicted damage whether to others or to yourself.

Everyone knows about little white lies and about not trying to hurt someone's feelings or trying to spare them some hurt or pain; but what usually results is the truth coming out eventually in less than kind ways with the deception eating away at the perpetrator. Once the deception is revealed the person who withheld the information usually loses the respect of the other individual which cannot ever be fully recovered.

SPOILER - MAJOR:

If Grace had told Hannah that she did not know shorthand and why she was where she was; she could have kept both Hannah's confidence and kept her book. It would have avoided Hannah writing a letter in shorthand which Grace did not understand and which led to the entire unfortunate and horrible outcome. Grace thought she was ultimately protecting Hannah; but actually unraveled the lot and put everyone in the line of fire. Secrets are like lies; they are doors which are closed to the rooms of our souls where few are allowed to enter. These secrets created great guilt in Grace's mind and changed a lot of lives including Hannah's, Emmeline's, Florence's, Robbie's, Teddy and his family and everyone else their lives touched. Most of all it changed Grace forever.
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Peppermill
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Re: THEMES: Secrets -- DEFINITELY SPOILER INFO

[ Edited ]
Fellow readers -- I am stunned! Deception, Robbie's and Hannah's, might be considered "causes". Failure to honor martial commitments might be considered a contributing "cause." Carrying a hidden gun into a party might be considered "cause." Alcohol and jealousy might have been contributing causes. Shooting a loaded gun certainly has a possibility of being considered a "cause."

But, insofar as Grace's secret about shorthand versus book purchase causing what happened? What happened may indeed never have happened without Hannah's gullibility and acceptance of Grace's lie. But that is a far cry from that lie/that secret being "the cause" (of what -- of only Robbie's death, or also of Emmie and Hannah's subsequent fates?).

And, I am not disagreeing that very small seemingly petty things we say (or don't say) as humans can have far ranging and devastating consequences, for better or for worse. (They certainly did here.)

Oh, do I really want the bashing I know I am about to receive? No, but I do think this discussion is crucial to plummeting Morton's message. Maybe I am wrong, but if I am, this book will become a two star rather than a four star one in my rating (to date, I have not given five stars to a new book after a one plus reading).

Message Edited by Peppermill on 01-14-2008 01:16 AM
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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vivico1
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Re: THEMES: Secrets

**** spoiler to most of the book*******
Not all secrets are damaging. There are the secrets between a husband and wife, that are just things, that they keep as their own and there is no need for others to know. Friends often have the same kind of secrets. Secrets are damaging when they are born of deceit, greed, lust, immorality etc. The only one really damaged in my opinion by Grace's lie about shorthand, was Grace, because she lied to try to create and keep a relationship for herself that wasn't real, not in the way she wanted it, thats why she continued in the lie, to try to keep that illusion she had of what Hannah thought about her now. Hannah thought they actually shared something, so it made her come closer to Grace, but it was based on that lie. Was Hannah and what happened to Robbie a consequence of Grace's lie? NO, their adultery was. That bigger lie that made them hide from the world, a life that was not theirs to have. Nothing ever ends happily ever after from those kinds of lies and they do damage more than just the two involved. Hanna was wrong to blame Grace for what happened. But Grace was wrong to try to build a "sisterly" relationship built on a lie too.

And it amazed the heck out of me that Hannah could talk about feeling guilty about being with Robbie that time Emmie almost caught them since Emmie did love Robbie and NOT ONCE feel guilt or mention it for having an affair on her husband. I dont care if they hated each other, call me old fashioned but there should be some guilt about crushing those vows in the mud for your own satisfaction but not be brave enough or honest enough, that if you are no longer in love and you find someone else, to get out of the marriage honestly first before pursuing another in hiding.
Vivian
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Iulievich
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Re: THEMES: Secrets

Speaking of secrets, what about poor Ursula? Grace MUST have figured out who she is, though she never tells us.

We are never told how Ursula knew to contact Grace. Grace herself remarks that it has been more than 70 years since anyone associated her name with those events. If you apply 70+ years to the timeline going backwards from when Grace receives the letter, she is practically telling us that her name has never been publicly connected to the events. It is obvious that the producers of other documentaries that have talked about Robbie's death had not contacted Grace. Surely they would have if they had any reason to suspect that she had any information. Only the sisters knew for sure that Grace had been present. (Emmeline had ordered Grace to spirit Hannah's suitcase back to the house by a concealed route before anyone else arrived.) Neither sister was interviewed by the police, and both were dead in less than a year.

So Grace, always interested in being a detective and having spent years as an archeologist (according to Grace the next best thing to being a detective) must have wondered how Ursula found out about her.

Ursula's great grandmother was related to the Hartford sisters by marriage but lived in America. She had been present at the party when Robbie died. It could have been Deborah Luxton, but that seems very unlikely.

Whoever the great grandmother was, she must have seen Grace charging through the party crowd looking for Emmeline in a manner most extraordinary for a lady's maid in the Hartford service. She must have noticed Grace in a panic dragging Emmeline off toward the lake a few minutes before Robbie "shot himself." She must also have been someone capable of a great deal of disgression to realize that "outing" Grace's involvement to the police might lead to the uncovering of information that would bring scandal on the family, and she would have to be someone who would care enough about that to keep quiet. This would explain how Grace's name might be passed down three generations to Ursula without ever coming to anyone else's attention.

Perhaps Grace's attention to Ursula's fine blonde hair and striking brown eyes together with the information about the great grandmother was enough to put Grace's detective instincts on full alert.

Another person specifically mentioned by Grace as arriving for the party was Jemima, the widow of Major Jonathan Hartford, who should have been Lord Ashbury and master of Riverton when his father died -- except that he was killed in 1916. Jemima had been relieved to have given birth to a daughter who -- though she could not inherit Riverton -- would avoid the curse of hemophelia that had taken her sons. Jemima had gone to America.

Eventually Grace recounts that after Hannah's death, "I heard they sent Florence to America, that Jemima agreed to take her as sister to Gytha. She had always longed for more than one. Hannah would've been pleased, I think, would've preferred to imagine her daughter growing up a Hartford than a Luxton." (p.441)

Florence had had fine blonde hair, like that of the the Hartford children and Grace (a legacy from Frederick's Danish grandmother). She also had striking brown eye's, Robbie's genetic inheritance to his daughter.

When Ursula gets upset at not being present for her three-year-old son who has suffered a minor injury back in America, she tells Grace, "You're easy to talk to. You remind me of my grandmother." Does she sense more than just a high level of comfort talking to an older woman? Or can blood really recognize blood? Was Ursula's grandmother named Florence?

Grace is Ursula's grandmother's aunt.

Is it wrong of Grace not to share the truth with Ursula and to hope that Ursula does not learn the truth, or is it a kindness? Or is it the result of an old and persistent outlook on the relationships within the family? Is it Grace knowing that it would be "stepping out of her place" to impart such information to Jemima's (Hannah's) great grandaughter?
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit." -Aristotle
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rbaltus
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Re: THEMES: Secrets

I also have completed the book and find the ending and the secret it involves is definitely the biggest of all. It is interesting that Grace's secret is something that seems so minor. In the end though, that little white lie resulted and a huge disaster and, you can definitely argue, the entire scenario and its ending would have been different if not for that little white lie.
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bentley
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Re: THEMES: Secrets


rbaltus wrote:
I also have completed the book and find the ending and the secret it involves is definitely the biggest of all. It is interesting that Grace's secret is something that seems so minor. In the end though, that little white lie resulted and a huge disaster and, you can definitely argue, the entire scenario and its ending would have been different if not for that little white lie.




I agree with you rbaltus. It was like a domino effect or a house of cards tumbling down.
And nobody can dispute that adultery is wrong; and nobody can dispute the culpability of all parties involved whether it be carrying guns, committing suicide, shooting someone in cold blood and covering it up, posing for pornographic films, alcoholism, promiscuity and the list in this book goes on and on. Or the sins caused by feeling unloved or unwanted or your feelings and needs ignored or undesired by the husband in this case (Teddy). Everyone contributed to this mess in their own way.

But these little white lies, deceptions and secrets caused a man's murder to occur which most likely would not have happened. He may have been so unbalanced by Hannah's rejection that he could have committed suicide (Robbie) but we the readers will never know. From the viewpoint of Emmeline and Grace, maybe they concocted in their mind that it was self-defense and that Emmeline was about to be hurt after she was the one who threatened to kill one of them. All one can say is that this is one party that turned into an awful mess which could have been avoided. And nobody is condoning adultery or any of the other characters'sins/lies/deceptions they committed.

One last comment, I do see privacy as being very important and value that myself. But lying about what you know or do not know and/or pretending otherwise is a different thing especially if you are using that deception to gain some sort of advantage or disguise an untruth to protect yourself needlessly. It is funny but the guilt that I thought was the most palpable and should have been causing the most unrest for Grace is how she treated her own daughter among other things.

I did enjoy the book immensely; the story itself kept my interest.

Bentley
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