The Distant Hours
By Kate Morton
Kate Morton is a new to me author. I’ve read some mixed things about her books, and about half way through The Distant Hours, I felt I understood some of those reviews. In the end, I did enjoy it with the exception of one odd thing that left me wondering which I’ll explain later.
Edie Burchill’s mother never cries so when a letter arrives that leaves her mother in tears, Edie wonders, almost obsessively, what was in the letter. She finds out, after a lot of questioning, that her mother was a child evacuee during WWII. Her mother, Meredith, was relocated from London to Milderhurst Castle in the deep countryside and found a life there she never imaged possible. Unfortunately, it was also during this time that her greatest heartache occurred. Edie finds herself researching the Castle and its three spinster sisters, Percy, Saffy, and Juniper, with the hope that she’ll be able to understand her mother better. What she finds is a mystery neatly wrapped up in the pages of a children’s book.
A lot goes on in The Distant Hours but it all happens very slowly. Morton takes her time un-wrapping the story which in some ways can be infuriating and at other moments it’s lovely. Her writing style lends itself to long, meandering stories which The Distant Hours definitely is. I liked that Edie was in publishing and had a deep appreciation for words and books. It made her research and reading, which she does a lot of, fit seamlessly in but as you can imagine, it doesn’t offer a lot of action. The story didn’t feel slow so much as weighty though and this book is over 500 pages so it’s a literal and figurative heaviness.
So what left me with an odd feeling? Everything is this book comes to some sort of conclusion. Every mystery, every thought, every wonder that Edie had about her mother’s life, the sisters of Milderhurst Castle, all find a neat ending. I’m not opposed to tidy endings but I wasn’t left wondering at all — about anything. Honestly, I think I would have liked the book more if some of my questions weren’t answered. Even some of the peripheral sub-plots were tied up. I almost felt a little ripped-off because I didn’t get the chance to wonder how certain things turned out — Morton told me everything.
But you’ll notice I still gave this book a rather high rating. I did that because I enjoyed Morton’s writing and I did find myself at times unable to put the book down. Parts of the story are wonderfully hypnotic, especially those that take place at the castle. The sisters’ story is sad, almost as decrepit as the castle itself, and yet romantic. The story is about love lost and love found. It’s also about endurance (which is handy when reading a book of this size). For these reasons, I enjoyed it.
This book was sent to me by the publisher for review.