The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Fiction, Published 2010
ARC Received from Publisher, Atria/Simon & Schuster & Purchased final copy
Read Nov 2010, 672 pp.
A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WW II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.
Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.
Video with the Author:
This was my first Kate Morton read, although I do have her other books, The Forgotten Garden and The House at Riverston. I had high expectations for this one and it fell a little short for me. I really enjoyed the beginning, with the setting up of the castle and learning about the sisters. I even enjoyed learning about the present day story of Edie and her mother.
I enjoyed the flow of the the narrative and the character based plot, which is why it’s almost a 4 rating, but it became very bogged down at times and I think a lot of it could have been edited out – like all the dialogue about Percy in the war. Morton slowly gives away the book’s secrets as Edie learns more and more about the Blythe sisters and her mother’s part in the story. I really liked how the reader has to piece together what really happened, but I feel like it all should have lead to something more. There were so many great story lines and they all let me down in the end. There are so many things I want to know more about, like: I would have liked to learn more about the father of the Blythe sisters, more about the castle’s history and it’s secret passages, more about Edie’s mother – I really wanted her to meet with the sisters, especially Juniper. The stones of that castle hold a lot of juicy secrets, but the ones that are finally revealed after nearly 700 pages were, for me, easily detected and not quite satisfactory.
Quotes – SO MANY GREAT ONES!:
For it is said, you know, that a letter will always seek a reader; that sooner or later, like it or not, words have a way of finding the light, of making their secrets known. -p. 7
I was about to cross a tremendous threshold through which there would be no return; that in my hands I held an object whose simple appearance belied its profound power. All true readers have a book, a moment, like the one I describe. -p. 31
After all, it’s the librarian’s sworn purpose to bring books together with their one true reader.” -p. 31
As if the story were one I’d already known, that is confirmed something I’d always suspected about the world, that it had sat in my future all alone, waiting for me to find it. -p.53
Shelves spanned all four walls, floor to ceiling, and although it was shadowy inside – the windows were cloaked by thick, draping curtains that brushed the ground – I could see they were lined with very old books, the sort with marbled endpapers, gold-dipped edges, and black cloth binding. My fingers positively itched to drift at length along their spines, to arrive at one whose lure I could not pass, to pluck it down, to inch it open, then to close my eyes and inhale the soul-sparking scent of old and literate dust. -p. 63
That’s just the caretakers, playing in the veins. p. 64
In a cupboard at the very top of the castle there lies a secret doorway. Behind the doorway is the entrance to an entire scheme of hidden passages. It’s possible to crawl along them, room to room, attic to vault, just like a little mouse. If one goes quietly enough, it’s possible to hear all manner of whispered things, to get lost inside if one isn’t careful. They’re the castle’s veins. -p. 65
Think of all the people who’ve lived within these walls, he’s say, who’ve whispered their secrets, laid their betrayals…” -p.72
Doors lead to things and I’ve never met one I haven’t wanted to open. p. 78
Sometimes you can just tell just by looking at a door that there’s something interesting behind it. -p. 78
dovecote (40) – a building intended to house pigeons or doves
oast house (40) – a building designed for kilning (drying) hops as part of the brewing process.
fossicking (41) – a term found in Cornwall and Australia referring to prospecting.
ingenue (213) – a stock character in literature, film, and a role type in the theater; generally a girl or a young woman who is endearingly innocent and wholesome.