A thrilling tale of intrigue, romance and imagination.
It started with a letter. A letter that had been lost a long time, waiting out half a century, stifling summer after cooling winter, in a forgotten postal bag in the dim attic of a nondescript house in Bermondsey …
Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long-lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.
Evacuated from London as a thirteen-year-old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe, and taken to live at Milderhurst Castle with the Blythe family: Juniper, her twin sisters and their father, Raymond, author of the 1920s children’s classic The True History of the Mud Man. In the grand and glorious Milderhurst Castle, a new world opens up for Edie’s mother. She discovers the joys of books and fantasy and writing, but also, ultimately, the dangers.
Fifty years later, as Edie chases the answers to her mother’s riddle, she, too, is drawn to Milderhurst Castle and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness.
Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find.
WHAT I THOUGHT
For starters I will say that it took me some months to read this book. It started out great, did not hold my interest so much for the middle but did redeem itself in the end. I can’t put my finger on why I felt it lagged for me, perhaps it was that it seemed to be taking too long to explain things and get right into the nitty gritty of the secrets I wanted to find the answers for. The last hundred pages or so I would rate higher than the rest of the book, everything I wanted in an ending. I will also say that I read several other books at the same time as reading The Distant Hours and I think it actually made my reading more enjoyable, I was able to appreciate small sections of reading rather than, as when I first started, trying to force that appreciation and enjoyment by reading large sections. In the end the decision to read other books at the same time made my reading of The Distant Hours a good experience instead of feeling like a chore.
I loved the characters, could not pick a favourite. Each and every character was dealing with their own inner problems and trying to solve their own secrets. I was eager to find out the ultimate secret but also to see how Edie and her mother’s relationship would develop as Edie uncovered intimate secrets about her mother’s past. Fifty years is a long time and a lot of water under the bridge, albeit this water mixed with sand to make mud which stuck to the main characters throughout all their lives.
All in all, for me, it was an okay read. I’m glad I decided to take a more leisurely pace with this one and finish the book instead of racing through it or not finishing it at all. It certainly hasn’t deterred me from other works of Kate Morton.
Many thanks to Jess from Allen & Unwin for providing me with a copy of The Distant Hours – thanks, Jess!