Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

In The Distant Hours, a letter arrives for Meredith, Edie's mother, 50 years after it was sent. She is visibly upset and refuses to talk about it. It is at that time, that Edie learns that her mother was shipped off during WWII (as other children were) to live in Milderhurst Caste with the Blythe sisters. Meredith refuses to talk about it, so Edie embarks on a journey to uncover the truth about her mother's evacuation. Along the way, she discovers other secrets that have been well hidden over the years by the sisters.

This was such a great book. At 562 pages, it was a bit long for me, but I knew I wouldn't have any trouble getting through it because I love Morton's work. I admit I was a little impatient with a few of the storylines in this book. I kept asking myself, what does this have to do with the mystery? How does this tie in? Then the author does what I didn't think was possible; she ties it all together. All of it! All of the odds and ends that I thought had nothing to do with the mystery were tucked in nicely at the end. Brilliantly, in fact. This is a terrific story from a wonderful author who undoubtedly has a fantastic imagination.

I loved all of the characters, but especially the three Blythe sisters: Percy, Saffy, and Juniper. Each of them had their idiosyncrasies that made them interesting. Of the three, Juniper stood out as my favourite. She was such an odd character, I wanted to find the real story behind her madness. Besides them, I really wanted to learn more about Meredith's experiences as a evacuated child in WWII.

There was one odd thing about the book. The story is broken up into several parts. Each part is further broken down into many chapters. The chapters are grouped together by present (1992) and past (1940s). Here's where is gets a little weird. The chapters in the present are named as in "A Lost Letter Finds Its Way", "A Memory Clarifies" and so on. However, the chapters in the past are numbered, as in One, Two, Three, etc. I'm not sure why this was done. Also, because the chapters were mostly grouped into past and present, the flow felt a little too regimented and not very natural. That could have been just my perception. The naming really did throw me off.

My favourite quote:
There's none like a sister for remembering one's ancient sins. (page 72)

The book contained a few new-to-me words:
trireme (page 126): ancient galley
placatory (page 150): soothing
ingénue (page 178): unsophisticated girl or young woman
déshabillé (page 211): casual or careless manner
sycophancy (page 244): flattery

I also have read Morton's The Forgotten Garden(my review). It's really wonderful. I also have The House at Riverton on my to-be-read bookshelf and can't wait to read it.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book, please visit the Simon & Schuster website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Kate Morton's website.

I'd like to thank Christine at Edwards Magazine Bookclub and those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, Atria Books (Simon & Schuster), ©2010. ISBN 9781439152782(Hardcover), 562p.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I have read The House at Riverton and really liked it, so this one was on my TBR. It has now moved to the top. Your review is excellent - giving specific likes and dislikes without giving away the story. WWII is usually not my favorite time period to read, but this sounds too good to pass up.

    Also - stops for topping by our blog and commenting on my "grammar pet peeve". I agree with you about the misuse of "myself". I will be back for more of your great blog.


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