Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Julie's Review: The Distant Hours

Summary: A letter posted in 1941 finally reaches its destination in 1992 with powerful repercussions for Edie Burchill, a London book editor, in this enthralling romantic thriller from Australian author Morton (The Forgotten Garden). At crumbling Milderhurst Castle live elderly twins Persephone and Seraphina and their younger half-sister, Juniper, the three eccentric spinster daughters of the late Raymond Blythe, author of The True History of the Mud Man, a children's classic Edie adores. Juniper addressed the letter to Meredith, Edie's mother, then a young teen evacuated to Milderhurst during the Blitz. Edie, who's later invited to write an introduction to a reprint of Raymond's masterpiece, visits the seedily alluring castle in search of answers. Why was her mother so shattered by the contents of a letter sent 51 years earlier? And what happened to soldier Thomas Cavill, Juniper's long-missing fiancé and Meredith's former teacher? Despite the many competing narratives, the answers will stun readers. ~amazon.com

Review: You know how you love a book so much but then have trouble putting into words why you loved it? That's me with The Distant Hours. I have read all three of Ms. Morton's books and this is my favorite. Her writing has gotten much more crisp since the release of The House at Riverton. Ms. Morton does a fantastic job of weaving the present day (1992) and the past (1939-1941) into a seamless story that slowly unwinds itself.

The novel opens with an excerpt from The True Story of the Mud Man by Raymond Blythe
and then segues into Edie Burchill, her mother and a long lost letter. The letter is the catalyst for the whole novel. We quickly find out that Edie's mom was sent to the countryside to avoid the bombings in London. The recently delivered letter upsets her mom so much that while on a business trip, Edie happens across Milderhurst Castle. Really, do things like this just happen randomly? Nope, I don't think so either. And so Edie's research into her mom and the Blythe family's past collides.

The book is centered around one fateful night in 1941 when the youngest Blythe sister, Juniper, was waiting for her fiance to show up. Only he never does and this plunges Juniper into madness. While the book hinges on what happened that night, there are many stories that lead up to the climax.

While I loved getting to know Persephone (Percy), Seraphina (Saffy) and Juniper (June), the character that really came to life for me was Meredith, Edie's mom. From the moment she receives the letter you know she's an integral part of the story, but it was just not in the way I had set up in my mind.

What I loved most about The Distant Hours is that we learned the story from every one's point of view. By writing it this way not only did we learn about that character but they each unraveled a part of the mystery. It wasn't through the eyes of one protagonist. What's brilliant is all the pieces of the puzzle are put together at the end. I was worried that there were a couple of small plot points that were not going to wrapped up but I didn't have to worry, they were and in way that wasn't as an after thought. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, another piece of the puzzle was revealed to throw my theory out the window. I LOVE it when authors do that but more importantly, when it is done successfully.

All the characters were well written and fully developed. I wanted to read and savor every word on the pages of this book.

The book is about family and how far we'll go to protect those we love. It's also about knowing where you come from and understanding those you love. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to know your parents; their lives aren't always open books.

I'm afraid I'm not doing this book any justice, so you just have to go read it for yourself. It's part romance, part historical fiction, part mystery. So, it has something for everyone.

So now that I've read Ms. Morton's newest book, I'll have to patiently wait for her next one. I think this is the third time I'm saying this but my thanks go to Lisa for giving me The House at Riverton to read 2 years ago.

If you are looking for a "new to me" author I highly recommend Kate Morton. You can't go wrong with any of her books.

Final Take: 5/5

Thanks to Atria Books for graciously sending me an ARC of this novel.



DarcyO November 9, 2010 at 8:15 AM  

Julie, I couldn't agree more. Loved the book!

Jen - devourer of books November 9, 2010 at 10:47 AM  

Ooh, you're making me want to go home and read my copy Right. Now.

Julie November 9, 2010 at 12:30 PM  

Jen - You should. Put down whatever else you are reading and pick it up.

Anna November 9, 2010 at 1:23 PM  

Oh this premise sounds fabulous! Love the old letter finding its destination. Off to go add to the to-read list!

Julie November 9, 2010 at 2:04 PM  

Anna - Come back tomorrow. :) Hint Hint.

Lisa November 9, 2010 at 8:07 PM  

I've got to agree with my friend Julie. I've been extremely busy this year and haven't had a lot of time to read - however I was home on this last Saturday afternoon and I was able to read through most of the book. Then I left my ARC in the movie theater (I know, the irony). I preordered a copy for my iPad and no sooner than it downloaded a 11 pm last night was I reading again. Suffice it to say, I stayed up until I was done. Consequently, I'm very tired today, but it's a good tired.

This is an amazing read - add it to your list or you know, just come back tomorrow.

Julie November 9, 2010 at 8:33 PM  

^Lisa, so is it better than House at Riverton for you or is that still your fav?

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