The Distant Hours – Book Review

As I walked up the hill, closer and closer, I could almost feel the air changing around me, as if I were crossing an invisible barrier into another world. Sane people do not speak of houses having forces, of enchanting people, of drawing them closer. But I came to believe that week, as I still do now, that there was some indescribable force at work, deep within Milderhurst Castle. I’d felt it on my first visit, and I felt it again that afternoon. A sort of beckoning, as if the castle itself was calling to me. – from The Distant Hours –

Edie Burchill lives in London and works for a publisher. One day while visiting her parents a lost letter arrives for her mother – a letter mailed 50 years before, but just now finding its intended reader. Meredith Burchill’s reaction to the letter is surprising, and Edie becomes convinced there is something in her mother’s past that must be uncovered, something that involves a crumbling old castle and the three elderly sisters who still live there. Edie’s search to understand her mother brings her to Milderhurst Castle where she meets the Blythe sisters: the surly and secretive Percy, the sweet Saffy, and the mentally unstable and damaged Juniper. The castle at first holds onto its secrets despite the tortured voices within it walls. But as the novel unfolds the mystery is revealed.

I shivered, overcome by a sudden and pressing image of the castle as a giant, crouching creature. A dark and nameless beast, holding its breath; the big, old toad of a fairy tale waiting to trick a maiden into kissing him. I was thinking of the Mud Man, of course, the Stygian slippery figure emerging from the lake to claim the girl in the attic window. – from The Distant Hours –

The Distant Hours is a magnificent, moody, Gothic novel. Kate Morton structures the novel to take the reader back and forth from 1992 (Edie’s time) to the years of World War II when the Blythe sisters and Meredith were young women. There is a novel, written by Raymond Blythe (the sisters’ reclusive father), that is laced through the story – a creepy, and engaging story of a Mud Man who climbs the walls of the castle to steal a young girl; and there is of course, the castle itself – a mouldering, eerie place that harbors strange voices and sounds within its walls. There is love, betrayal, and a mystery – all the elements that make a Gothic novel’s pages turn almost on their own. And there is Morton’s writing which is flawless and engaging. She carefully constructs her story, unwrapping the layers of her characters like peeling an onion, giving us glimpses of who they might be, and then surprising us with what they are hiding.

The Distant Hours is a thick, delicious book of almost 700 pages. I was engaged in the story from the start and my interest never waned. In fact, the last 200 pages practically turned themselves as I read furiously to discover the secrets of the castle and its inhabitants. I have come to recognize Morton as a talented author who knows how to craft a story of intrigue filled with fascinating characters. I can’t wait to discover her next book.

Readers who love Gothic literature, creepy tales, wonderful characters, and effortless writing will love The Distant Hours.

Highly recommended.

FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

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    • Jill on December 10, 2010 at 09:41

    Hi, Wendy: Sounds great! I already have this on Mount TBR! =)

    • Wendy on December 10, 2010 at 09:47

    Jill: It is sooooooooo good!!! You’ll love it 🙂

    • Anna on December 10, 2010 at 10:41

    I’m definitely going to have to read this one. 700 pages and not boring at all, that’s my kind of tome! It’s interesting that I read your review about a gothic novel just as I’m about to leave work and start Northanger Abbey on my commute home. 😉

    • Rebecca on December 10, 2010 at 11:12

    I loved Kate Morton’s first book, The House at Riverton when I read it earlier this year, and I have her second lined up on my bookshelf. This one seems like it will be another winner. Thanks for the great review – sounds like just the sort of book I enjoy!

    • Audra on December 10, 2010 at 12:51

    I’m going abroad over the winter holidays and I think this is going to be my traveling book. Seems the right size and the right mood for my late nights up reading! Your review only sealed the deal for me!

    • yolanda on December 10, 2010 at 16:48

    I loved this one too . I haven’t posted a review yet but hope to soon.

    • Mystica on December 10, 2010 at 18:21

    This seems such a good book with such positive reviews all around!

    I have a giveaway on my blog – a gift card sponsored by CSN Stores. Would like you to come over and enter

    • Ariel on December 10, 2010 at 20:08

    This sounds amazing – and it’s the first I’ve heard of it. Definitely going on the wishlist. Thanks, Wendy!

    Oh, to be done with this towering crag of grading so that I could get down to some serious reading….

    • Pam on December 11, 2010 at 04:20

    Ah, I can’t wait to read this. It’s been a hit everywhere from what I can tell!

  1. I read The House at Riverton and really enjoyed it! I can’t wait to finally get a copy of this one to read — I also need to read The Forgotten Garden as well. I love a good Gothic novel in the wintertime!

  2. I love when you love things.

    • Wendy on December 11, 2010 at 14:45

    Anna: Synchronicity for sure!! This chunkster is well worth the read 🙂 Hope you enjoyed Northanger Abbey!!

    Rebecca: I also loved The House at Riverton…but I think this one is even better!

    Audra: Hope you love it 🙂

    Yolanda: Good to know this was one you also loved!

    Mystica: Thanks for stopping by – I’ll come by and check out your giveaway 🙂

    Ariel: Hope your work ends soon so you can read the good stuff!!

    Pam: I don’t think I’ve seen any negative reviews.

    Coffee and a Book Chick: I agree – Gothic novels should be read on cold, stormy nights!! I also have The Forgotten Garden – I’ve pulled it out and moved it up in the stacks 🙂

    Beth: *laughs* I love when I love things too!!!

    • zibilee on December 12, 2010 at 17:52

    I am so super excited about this book, and am going to be trying to make the time to read it in the next few months. I a, so glad to hear it was such a good read for you, and your review was wonderful!

  3. I wasn’t a big fan of The House at Riverton. It was OK, but nothing special. Your review of this one has intrigued me though. I have a copy, but it is so long. I might have to give it a try now that you have given it 5 stars…

  4. I cannot wait to read this!! The Forgotten Garden is one of my favorite books..her writing is so smooth and seems so effortless. I am certain The Distant Hours and all of her upcoming books are going to be amazing!

  5. I just finished this so am now reading your review. Very powerful ending! Very Halloweenish book! Hard to review though….

    • Wendy on December 20, 2010 at 08:02

    Heather: I hope you love it! It is such a good book!

    Jackie: I had forgotten that you didn’t love House at Riverton – but, this one is much more of a traditional gothic novel than her first book…so I hope you will enjoy it.

    Lisa: I really need to read The Forgotten Garden soon! I love her writing too.

    Rhapsody (Jill): I agree – great ending! And scary the way she put it together !

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