The Distant Hours: A Novel by Kate Morton - BOOK REVIEW

12/08/2010 02:26:00 PM

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Title:  The Distant Hours: A Novel
Author:  Kate Morton
Publisher:  Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: November, 2010
Hardcover, 576 pages
ISBN 10:  1439152780
ISBN 13:  9781439152782

Goodreads description:

This long-awaited novel by the author of The House at Riverton begins with a long lost letter. Its contents compel young Edie Burchill to journey to the eerie realm of Millderhurst Castle, where her mother, then just 13 years old, waited out the London Blitz. What Edie learns about those distant hours in that faraway place will forever change her view of her mother and herself. A subtle, artfully constructed story about place, the past, and time's reverberations.

My Take: 

It actually took almost a month for me to finish this book.  That is a VERY long time for me .. but it wasn't because I didn't love it.  Other review commitments with firm dates kept dodging in; it's a pretty big book; and .. well, it's the type of book you don't rush through.

It's not a complicated read.  It's a book that you want to savor.  I found myself thinking once, "It's like dipping your finger into a chocolate fondue made of words." 

Even though I kept getting sidetracked, I kept this on my living room table (the home of THE book I most want to read at the time), and every time I opened it, it was like meeting an old friend.  As I slipped right back into the river of it's softly flowing pages, it was as though I'd never left.  There's a classic writing style at play here (think Jane Eyre) that makes you feel almost as though you should be reading a great historical fiction novel, even though it's in a contemporary setting.

It begins and ends with The Mud Man.

Raymond Blythe is the tragically deceased owner of Milderhurst Castle, He was also the author of The Mud Man, a favored children's story.  We start the novel with an excerpt.

Edie is the main protagonist, very literary, who works for an indie publisher.  Her love of books began with The Mud Man.

Edie's mother, Meredith, receives a letter from a bag of mail that a postal worker failed to deliver 50 years ago.  Her reaction to the letter, even though she attempts to cover it up, isn't lost on her daughter.  When Edie finds out that her mother was one of the English children sent to live in the countryside with strangers at the beginning of the war, she resolves to find out more.

Enter Milderhurst castle, where the three Sisters Blythe still reside.

Persephone (Percy):  There was something fundamentally broken at the heart of Percy Blythe, something queer and defective and utterly unlikable.  That she should contemplate, even for a second, the ease with which she might deprive her sister, her infuriating, beloved twin, of happiness.

Seraphina (Saffy) and her dreams:  The wireless would be her only companion, and she'd pause in her typing throughout the day to listen to the weather reports, leaving briefly the world she was creating on the page to gaze through the window at the clear, smokeless London sky.

And poor, doomed Juniper, the youngest:  Away from the castle, away from the world of Raymond Blythe, the terrible things he'd told her, his seeping guilt and sadness, she was free.  There'd been none of her visitors in London, there'd been no lost time.  And although her great fear had followed her, the fear that she was capable of harming others, it was different here.

There's mystery, and madness.  Suicides, murder and secrets.  There are surprises, both good and bad, and betrayals, and seeming-betrayals.  There are lost loves, and graspingly mad possession.  When you think you have a mystery figured out, it turns on you. When you say to yourself, "Ah!  NOW I have it!", you find out that you don't.  And you won't ... almost to the very end.

This book was so wonderfully-written that I don't have the words or the space to do it justice.  Buy it and read it.


I was sunk then by the sense that I knew everything and nothing of the person sitting next to me.  The woman in whose body I had grown and whose house I'd been raised was in some vital ways a stranger to me; I'd gone thirty years without ascribing her any more dimension than the paper dollies I'd played with as a girl, with the pasted-on smiles and the folding tab dresses.

Juniper understood why people referred to it as a fall.  The brilliant, swooping sensation, the diving imprudence, the complete loss of will.  It had been just like that for her, but it had also been much more.  After a lifetime spent shrinking away from physical contact, Junper had finally connected.

Percy's chest ached.  She steeled herself against the pull of sentiment.  She didn't want to remember the girl her twin had been, back before Daddy broke her, when she'd had talent and dreams and every chance of fulfilling them.

BOOK RATING:  5.0 out of 5 stars

Browse inside the book

About Kate Morton

BUY IT:  At Amazon, through the publisher's website, and at other on-and-off-line booksellers.  eBook also available.

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary ARC of this title through Atria books to facilitate my review.  Any quotes may differ from the finished version.  No other compensation was received and I was not required to post a positive review.

You Might Also Like


  1. I have this book on hold at the library and just waiting for the queue to go up. Can't wait to read it. :) Great review!

  2. I have this one sitting on my shelf , but haven't gotten to it yet. After all the fabulous reviews I've seen, I can't wait to read it.

  3. Have you read "The Forgotten Garden" or "The House of Riverton" yet? I picked up copies of both at my local used bookstore and have yet to read either of them, but I'm excited to do so!

  4. BibliophilebytheseaDecember 8, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    high praise Julie; glad to see you loved it!

  5. Nicholas KlacsanszkyDecember 9, 2010 at 3:36 AM

    This book seems intriguing by its placement in two eras. Its sense of family subtleties with the focus on historical circumstances can engage a reader strongly. A novel that can compare with this is Blood, Money, Power by Michele Marie Tate. It is placed in the 1920s through the 1990s - centered on a families' inner and outer struggles for wealth.

  6. Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)December 9, 2010 at 7:47 AM

    "Chocolate fondue made of words." Awesome! I've been wanting to read this one.

  7. Sounds like a great book! Sometimes it takes me awhile to finish the books I am reading for pleasure as well. This one definitely sounds like one you don't want to rush through but savor each moment. Great review!

  8. PK Reeves from Aisle BDecember 9, 2010 at 5:08 PM

    I just just just finished it. Taking 2 weeks was my new record for a book reading. Loved it too and will post mine this weekend. 5 star rating all the way.

    Great review again and I completely agree with you on this one.


Comments make me feel all squishy happy inside, so drop a line if you see or read something interesting! PLEASE don't leave links to your blog or page unless the post you're replying to specifically asks you to leave a link!
Sorry that I had to re-enable word verification, but without it, there was far too much spam coming in - the only other option would have been to require only registered (Google, OpenID, etc.) comments, which might require you, the commenter, to go through even MORE steps just to comment!

Popular Posts