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The Distant Hours is Australian author, Kate Morton’s third novel. The novel plays out over two time periods: the early 1940s and 50 years later. The story begins when Meredith Burchill receives a letter that has been delayed by 50 years. The letter is from one of the Blythe sisters of Milderhurst Castle in Kent, to where Meredith was evacuated from London during the war. Her daughter Edith watches her reaction and is inwardly sceptical when her mother dismisses the letter as unimportant. Sometime later, Edith’s publishing job takes her near Milderhurst Castle, where she is drawn to know more about the place her mother stayed, the place that was also home to the famous author, Raymond Blythe. She meets the elderly sisters Blythe: the twins, Persephone (Percy) and Seraphina (Saffy) and the much younger (and mad) Juniper (June), during a tour of the Castle. Whilst there, she hears something of the events of 50 years previous that have left Juniper stuck on October 29th, 1941. Juniper still waits for the expected fiancé who never arrived. This book is filled with wonderful prose (“And then had come the rain, great sobbing drops that brought an immediate sheen to the world.” and “The room bore an unmistakeable signature of stillness”). The characters develop well: Morton binds the sisters in an intricate tangle of love and duty and resentment. The plot is involved and interesting enough to keep the reader turning pages. By about a third of the way through I was convinced I had figured out who dunnit, as I think many readers will be. It was such a lovely read, though, that I kept going and was duly surprised by the twist at the end. The epilogue was a superb touch. A very enjoyable read.
A New Turn on a Classic
As she did in "The Forgotten Garden," Kate Morton has taken a piece from a classic novel and built an entirely new story around it, with intriguing characters and back and forth changes from modern time settings to the years of World War II. This time machine technique builds the suspense as the mysteries twist and then unfold until all the questions are answered. I have to admit that I expected one aspect of the ending almost from the beginning, but I was not in the least disappointed by the journey.
The Distant Hours
I look forward to more from Kate Morton.
The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton, is part ghost story. The ghost in this case is the Milderhurst Castle.
Living in the castle are the Blythe sister. Twins, Persephone and Seraphina, and the youngest sister Juniper. The castle lies outside the village of Milderhurst, England. The history of the castle and it's occupants is shrouded in mystery and in tragedy.
The height of the castles lore is when the master of the castle, Raymond Blythe, becomes a famous author after writing what becomes a classic children's tale "The Mud Man". He lives a reclusive life in the castle with his daughters until his death. His actions before his death shape the future of his daughters.
I think you will enjoy this tale. It weaves it's way through time and the truth becomes clear as it is revealed to Edie when she is chosen to learn the secrets of Milderhurst Castle and its residents. When I finished I was ready to turn the book over and start again.