A letter, lost for 50 years, finally arrives at the home of Meredith Burchill. Her daughter Edie is there when she opens it. Her Mum's reactions startles her - "... horrid, guttural gasp, followed quickly by a series of rasping sobs". Yet her mother won't discuss the letter any further other than to stay it was from one of the Blythe sisters at Milderhurst Castle, where she lived as an evacuee during the blitzes of 1941war torn England. When a business trip for her publishing firm takes Edie within a few miles of the castle, she impulsively stops by the gates. And remembers being there as a child.
The three elderly Blythe sister are still in residence and welcome Edie. After all "The castle likes to be visited, it needs it."
Edie becomes fascinated with the moldering castle and it's residents - both past and present. What connection does her mother have to these women and the past? Although one of the Blythe sisters says " My family lives on in the stones of Milderhurst Castle and it's my duty to keep them. It's not a task for outsiders", they specifically ask for Edie when a new edition of their father's classic bestseller 'The Mud Man' is planned. Edie accepts the job and is inextricably drawn in.
The story alternates between Edie's world in 1992 and the past in 1941. Slowly and deliciously we are able to piece together the story of the castle and the tragedy that haunts the Blythe family. The past comes to light, but is told through many voices, each adding their slant and twist on the way to the truth of those distant hours.
Morton has written a richly atmospheric novel with a lovely, gothic feel that just makes you want to curl up late at night reading under a single lamp in the dark. The story builds slowly, with layer upon layer added as the tension builds over the course of 500 plus pages. Morton's descriptions add to the eeriness and the atmosphere.
"In a small cupboard at the very top of the house 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 cellar, just like a little mouse. If one goes quietly enough, it's possible to hear all manner of secret things; to get lost inside if one isn't careful. They're the castle's veins."I loved this description of the sky.
" Outside, the sky grumbled like a full stomach, the gluttonous belly of a gentleman who'd escaped the frugalities of a rationed pantry."Morton is an excellent storyteller. Although there is no 'action' in the book, I was completely caught up in the story of the 'Sisters Blythe'. Tragedy, romance, mystery and secrets abound in The Distant Hours - a book to be savoured and enjoyed.
Read an excerpt of The Distant Hours.
And thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada, I have a brand spankin' new ARC to giveaway. Let's open up this giveaway and make it international! To be entered - have you read Kate Morton before? Please ensure I have a means to contact you - either through your blog or by email. Closes Wednesday, Dec 1 at 6 pm EST.