[Review] The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Title:The Distant Hours
Author: Kate Morton
Page: 670 pages
Genre: Contemporary/Historical Fiction
Subject: Mothers and Daughters, Family Secrets, World War II (1939 - 1945), Kent (England)
First Published: 2010

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long-lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.

Evacuated from London as a thirteen-year-old girl, Edie’s mother was chose by the mysterious Juniper Blythe and taken to live at Milderhurst Castle with the Blythe family.

Fifty years later Edie, too, is drawn to the castle and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness.

Inside the decaying castle Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.

- Synopsis from book cover

The Distant Hours is a recent novel and much anticipated novel by Kate Morton. Believe me, I have been waiting anxiously for the paperback edition to come out and read it as soon as I got the hold of the copy. I declared The Forgotten Garden as my best book in 2010 and though The House of Riverton was just an OK read for me, I have huge expectations on this one.

With the tradition of its predecessor The Forgotten Garden, this book has all the elements that I love in a gothic novel—a dilapidated castle, books/literature, dark family secret and eccentric/mysterious characters. And as with the other two books this novel takes places in the past (WWII) and in the present. In the past we are introduced to the eccentric Blythe sisters; Persephone, Seraphina and Juniper as well as their father Raymond, an author of children's book called The Mud Man. In fact this novel started off with an excerpt from The Mud Man which in my opinion successful in setting up the mood of the story. In the present we have Edith "Edie" Burchill who became connected to the now elderly Blythe sisters through The Mud Man and her own mother who stayed with the sisters during the evacuation in the World War II. What transpired was the uncovering of a decades-old secret shared by Edie's mother and the Blythe sisters.

But unfortunately after the disappointment I had with The House at Riverton, this book fell short of my expectations again. Kate Morton is a gifted and imaginative writer and it is undeniable that she possesses great skills in conjuring up the "gothicness" (if there's a word) of the story.

I feel that the story dragged on too long—just like her earlier novels, its a whopping 600+pages!—that sometimes it became quite a bore. However I enjoyed the story about the past more than the present particularly because I found Edie to be quite annoying. The present was told in Edie's voice—which of course a more intimate reading experience—but she lived in her thoughts too much it seemed like sometimes she's blabbing away.

If there's one thing that is lacking, it is conversations/dialogues and connection between the characters. But had this put me off Kate Morton's writing... I reckon it would be no. The effect of The Forgotten Garden is still too great for me so I hope that she will realize that a good story doesn't have to be too lengthy :)


Anne said…
I was thinking about reading this book soon. The only book of Morton's that I have read is The House at Riverton, and I liked it. After reading your review I think I will try The Forgotten Garden instead.
Shy said…
I haven't yet gotten the chance to read anything by Morton but I've heard many readers praised the author's works. I do love reading hefty books but it will be quite a bore if the book is long without much happening in between. Hoping that the next book by the author will be much better than this one.
I've never been drawn to Kate Morton, and your review has hardly convinced me!
I love Kate Morton. And i read this book last year, so this must be a new edition or something? I loved this book. i don't see how it was dissapointing at all.
I really enjoyed The House at Riverton and have been meaning to read more of her work. I've heard mixed reviews of this, and will also go with The Forgotten Garden as well. I love that Gothic style and sometimes I can handle a book that drags a bit, but I have to be in the right mood for it.