The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

(This is what the Australian book cover looks like – I’ve already passed my book on, so no photograph).

The Distant Hours was a Christmas present I was really looking forward to. I loved both The Shifting Fog (The House at Riverton) and The Forgotten Garden – both were multilayered stories combining present day, history and a touch of the Gothic.

The Distant Hours doesn’t disappoint on that front – we have modern day Edie who finds that her mother was sent as an evacuee from London to Milderhurst Castle, where she was looked after by the Blythe sisters – Persephone (Percy), Seraphina (Saffy) and Juniper, who is known to be a bit ‘odd’. The Blythe girls’ claim to fame is that their father wrote the all-time favourite children’s book, The True History of the Mud Man. Like any good castle, Milderhurst comes with a tragic past. Edie can’t work out why her mother is so reluctant to talk about her time there and why she reacted so to a long lost letter.

Fortunately, Edie works for a publisher and becomes entangled in the lives of the three sisters, trying to work out what happened during the war years. This is told by past recollections of Meredith (Edie’s mother), Percy, Saffy and Juniper. The story unfortunately ends in a cliché.

I didn’t feel this book was Gothic at all – was it because I read it in the middle of summer? Is it because I’m getting used to Morton’s format? (Current day moves to past moves to secret moves to solving in the present day). I felt like there were many unexplored themes (Juniper’s mental illness is poorly portrayed, changes in heartbeat do not cause madness) and many loose ends. The characters didn’t feel fully fleshed nor did the castle – I feel like a have a simple sketch in my mind, rather than a perfect picture. Saying this though, the book needs a damn good edit. There are far too many adjectives to make sense of sometimes and I found myself rereading sentences to work out what they meant until the penny dropped, ‘Oh! She means the sky is grey today!’ I found myself falling asleep over this book, which occurs rarely!

I really wanted to like this, but I feel there’s better examples of the historical/Gothic genre. Look to Morton’s other books, The Shadow of the Wind or Daphne du Maurier (such as Jamaica Inn).

Read it if: you received it as a Christmas present or you haven’t read the other books I’ve mentioned above.

6 out of 10.

18 responses to “The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

  1. This was the first book I finished this year, and my thoughts echoed a lot of yours. I liked her earlier books, but didn’t think that this one worked all that well. I am not sure if it is because she was trying too hard with the twists and the turns or what it was exactly.

    I was surprised by the one feature Percy though. The rest, not so much.

  2. Oh, sorry to see that this one let you down. I absolutely loved The House at Riverton, and so I was really looking forward to this one, which is on my TBR pile. I had been putting it off because of its length, and because I have seen some mixed reviews :(

  3. I got a copy of this one for Christmas and after loving The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden I was looking forward to it. After reading your review I won’t approach it with high expectations, which is probably a good thing because if I don’t expect too much I might end up enjoying it more than I would have otherwise.

  4. I really must get around to reading something by Kate Morton, not this though perhaps:) I think I will try The House at Riverton first.

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