"The woman in whose body I had grown, in whose house I’d been raised was, in some vital ways, a stranger to me. I’d gone thirty years without ascribing her any more dimension than the paper dollies I’d played with as a girl with the pasted on smiles and the folding tab dresses."
First of all, I love Kate Morton. Adore her. I tore through The Forgotten Garden in a matter of days and immediately placed every one of her books on my Amazon wishlist. So I was thrilled to receive a copy of The Distant Hours for Christmas from my future mother in law. The real testament to how much I love reading her work is that both of these books are of the dead tree variety, and both are over 500 pages. I’m an avid Kindle reader these days, as it is incredibly convenient to carry that little device to read as much as I want, when and where I want. So to tell you I completed this book that I had to haul around in the same amount of time as I would had it been on the Kindle is really something.
The Distant Hours is a gothic styled novel that immediately made me think of Atonement by Ian McEwan (another book I highly recommend). Like The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours is told by a variety of narrators whose stories span decades. The timeline bounces around in a way that, rather than being disconcerting, leaves you wanting more each time. The story begins when a letter from 1941 is finally received in 1992. The letter is intended for the mother of our main character, Edie Burchill. Edie knows very little about her mother Meredith’s time as an evacuee during the Blitz, and very little more about her in general. This letter opens up a gateway to not only her mother’s past, but the history behind one of Edie’s favorite books, The True Story of the Mud Man. Edie’s mother had stayed at
with the family of the book’s auther, Raymond Blythe. Raymond had three daughters, twins Persephone and Seraphina, and later in life from a second wife, a daughter named Juniper. Milderhurst Castle
The receipt of the letter so upsets Meredith that Edie finds herself drawn to Milderhurst in a search for her mother’s past. Along the way, she stumbles upon a much bigger story than just her mother’s time at the rapidly deteriorating castle, though to explain further would absolutely ruin the suspense of the book. That would be a shame, because one of the most interesting aspects of this novel is its ability to surprise you. I’m the type of person who generally sees what’s coming and continues to read/watch to see how the story gets from point A to point B. With The Distant Hours, I genuinely didn’t know what happened those 50 years ago until they told me outright. And there are parts of the story, important parts, that I would never have even thought to contemplate had they not been eventually handed to me.
Kate creates some truly fabulous characters here, and their relationships are magnetic. The relationship between Edie and Meredith is fascinating to me because I don’t know what it’s like to know so little about the woman who bore and raised you. My mother and I are very close, so this was a whole new world of perspective for me. And being an only child, I’ve always loved studying the relationships between siblings; goodness does this book provide lots of material for that! The dynamic between the three sisters is incredibly complicated. There are so many ways to love someone, and many of them are represented here beautifully.
What I’m getting at is that you should check this book out, and definitely read Kate Morton. She is fabulous and I can’t wait to read the next of her books!