Buy The Distant Hours
Special price $14.17 Regular price: $16.00
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Reviewer: Melissa on January 27, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Distant Hours begins with a letter, lost for fifty years and delivered to Edie’s mother on a Sunday afternoon. In Kate Morton’s novel, the letter leads Edie to Milderhurst Castle, the place where the three eccentric Blythe spinsters live and where Edie’s own mother was billeted during the Second World War. Saffy and Percy, the two elder Blythe sisters, are twins and they have spent most of their lives caring for their younger sister, Juniper, who has never been the same since she was jilted by her fiancé in 1941. While touring the decaying castle, Edie searches for an understanding of her mother’s past, but soon comes to realize that that there are other, long-buried secrets hidden in its walls. The truth about what happened in “the distant hours” has been waiting a long time for someone to uncover it.
After reading The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper in 2014, I planned to read the rest of Morton’s backlist before her forthcoming, as of yet untitled, fall 2015 novel was released. However, as someone who has always loved reading Gothic novels, I knew that I had to read The Distant Hours next when I read that it pays homage to the fiction of the classic Gothic period and I’m so glad I did. Blending a series of secrets and mysteries with a dark, crumbling castle setting that is complete with winding staircases, a tower, and a muniment room filled with discarded documents and creepy artefacts, The Distant Hours recalled the atmosphere that I fell in love with from Anne Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, but with, possibly, a more satisfying conclusion. (To be honest, I loved Radcliffe’s novel, but everyone in the class where I read it hated the way it ended.)
As with Morton’s other novels, this multigenerational, family saga doesn’t leave any of the narrative strings unresolved. In fact, Morton even connects things and characters in ways that you never saw coming. Not only does Morton’s narrative keep me turning pages, I loved the metafictional characteristics that she employs. It’s, in part, the story of how a book called The True History of the Mud Man was written and how it affected the characters, how it changed their lives for good or ill. Edie, for example, accounts a lifetime of reading and her career in publishing to reading this novel as a girl. Moreover, Morton employs metafictional similes that made me smile and allusions to some of the best Gothic fiction that show she understands the Gothic tradition in which she writes.
In order to not give too much away, I’ll think I’ll leave this review at this: if you love multigenerational stories, WWII narratives, mysteries with satisfying conclusions or novels with Gothic elements, then you must pick up The Distant Hours.
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