Book Title: The Distant Hours
Author: Kate Morton
Number in #100Book Project: 5
Level of Recommendation: High
Favourite Quote: ‘Mrs Bird smiled at me as I arrived at her side. “They can surprise us, can’t they, our parents? The things they got up to before we were born”
“Yes” I said.
“Almost like they were real people once.” ‘
Okay so confession time I actually had three favourite sections from this book. This was the first on below are my two other favourites. I just couldn’t pick one over the rest. So enjoy all of them, hopefully as much as I did!
#2 “Juniper had wondered about sex, she’d written about it, the things she’d imagined she might do and say and feel. Nothing, though, had prepared her for the fact that love might follow it closely, to fall in love. Juniper understood why people referred to it as a fall. The brilliant, swooping sensation, the divine imprudence, the complete loss of free will.”
#3 “All houses have hearts; hearts that have loved, hearts that have been broken. The heart at the center of Milderhurst was larger than most and it beat more powerfully. It thumped and paused, raced and slowed in the small room at the top of the tower. The room where Raymond Blythe’s many times great-grandfather had sweated over sonnets for Queen Elizabeth; from which a great-aunt had escaped to sweet sojourn with Lord Byron; and upon whose brick ledge his mother’s shoe had caught as she leaped from the little archer’s window to meet her death in the sun-warmed moat below, her final poem fluttering behind her on a sheet of fine paper.”
Quick Review: A sprawling and enthralling novel that follows the story of two families the Blythes and the Churchills. Edie Churchill is the opening and ending of the book with her view in the beginning and her conclusion in the end. But its a story with multiple main characters and points of views. A novel that explores the sins of parents, the unresolved pain of a child, the thrill of unraveling a mystery, the horror when the mystery doesn’t have the ending you expected, the ecstasy of falling in love and how death, loss and heartbreak can send you mad in a variation of ways. The Distant Hours is a length but intricately written gothic mystery novel that will take a hold of you right from the beginning and won’t let go until the very end.
Longer Review: This book was given to me as a present from my roommates Mum because she thought I would like it because of his dark themes and the mystery aspect. When I read the description of the book I was honestly a little skeptical but as soon as I began to read I was hooked. Morton does an amazing job of connecting three different periods of time with fluidity and style. These three periods being the 90’s period where Edie Churchill, a book editor, witnesses her mother cry over a letter from Milderhurst castle (from the 40’s) that was lost in the post and then in turns begins to explore all the secrets of Milderhrst Castle, which includes interacting with the three elderly Blythe sisters. The 1900’s period which explores Raymond Blythe and his relationship with his young daughters as well as the history of him writing his famous novel (fake of course) The True History of the Mud Man and the 40’s-50’s period where the Blythe sisters are coming of age in their own ways, Edie’s mother Meredith lives at Milderhurst as a war orphan, Juniper falls in love and many important events take place that define the sisters and Meredith Churchill for the rest of their lives.
Morton manages to balance all these different time periods by constantly rotating the time period and the point of view at each chapter change within the novel. Therefore the reader never feels bogged down. You move through briskly and as Edie Churchill tries to put together the mysteries of Milderhurst, the major one being why Juniper Blythe has gone crazy in her old age (she’s reenacts the same night every day, the night her fiancée left her in the 50’s) the reader takes glues from all these different vantage points and pieces the puzzle together along with Edie, sometimes getting glues before her and sometimes receiving the glues as Edie discovers them.
Morton does an excellent job of fleshing out each character, giving them each a very distinct personality and history as well as each character managing to have secrets from their family members on some level. She also manages to make Milderhurst in itself a great and foreboding character through her description of its physicality but also through the way so much pain and fear is tied to different areas of the home.
Additionally just on a pure language level Morton’s prose is vivid, compelling and lovely throughout.
But the real skill of this novel is the slow reveal of the big secret (why Juniper is crazy) and how all the little secrets along the way were catalysts for the reason behind the big secret. Also the twist at the end is completely unexpected. It made me audibly gasp and I haven’t been that shocked by a twist ending in a very long time.
This novel is dense read, but is most certainly worth your time, especially if you enjoy a good mystery, tracking multiple connections in different time periods and the slow reveal of secrets. I highly recommend Morton’s The Distant Hours and I’m very happy my roommates Mum picked a book for me that I might not have chosen for myself but none the less thoroughly enjoyed.