Monday, November 08, 2010

DISTANT HOURS by Kate Morton

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I loved Kate Morton's book THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN so I was very excited when I got a galley of her newest book, THE DISTANT HOURS.  When a letter from 1941 finally arrives at its destination fifty years later, it has powerful repercussions for Edie Burchill, a young publisher in London.  Edie's mother opens the much-belated letter and is powerfully affected by it. She reveals to Edie that she had been evacuated to a castle called Milderhurst in the countryside during the war. Edie is very surprised to learn of this previously hidden episode in her mother's life.  She is even more surprised to learn that Milderhurst was the residence of the author of Raymond Blythe, the author of one her favorite books, THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE MUD MAN.  This book is a national treasure and no one has ever cracked the mystery of the true inspiration behind the story. When Edie is brought to Milderhurst by chance, she can't resist learning more about the place her mother had been exiled to and, in so doing, becomes drawn into the lives of the three elderly Blythe sisters that reside there still and the mysteries surrounding them.

This is a very difficult book to describe. There is so much going on!  It is a bit of a chunkster at 670 pages but the story flew by as I could not put it down. The story moves back and forth between the present of 1992 to the war years. We see the events unfolding through multiple perspectives as we try to learn the truth about the hidden secrets of the Blythe sisters and the origins of the famous MUD MAN story. There is also the side story of Edie trying to understand her mother, Meredith, by delving into her past.  The book reveals a great deal about the often complicated relationships between parents and children and also between siblings. The book offers a literary mystery and reminded me a great deal of AS Byatt's POSSESSION and Diane Setterfield's THE THIRTEENTH TALE. All of the characters are interesting and the secrets and mysteries keep you guessing until the end.

I could not put this book down.  I loved it even more than THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN.  It has many of the elements of my favorite books--mystery, books, family drama and secrets, madness, passion, castles, romance and even some wartime drama.  Although I think the ending was successful, it felt a little abrupt to me.  I wish Morton hadn't hurried things up so much. However, it was a thoroughly entertaining read overall.

BOTTOM LINE:  HIGHLY recommended.  One of my favorites this year.  Fans of AS Byatt and Diane Setterfield and even Charlotte Bronte will find much to enjoy here. This makes a great winter read.

1 comment:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Oh Amy...I knew everyone was going to love this one. Your review makes me want to jump right into it, but I need to stick to my list for now:(