The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)
I was recently able to attend a book event with Kate Morton, the New York Times bestselling author. I thoroughly enjoyed her books The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden and was excited about this event. The event was sponsored by a local independent bookseller and Morton discussed her writing and research process and took a few questions from the audience.
During the discussion Kate said she had been working on a novel and about 60,000 words in she just had to let it go and write a different story. She had characters in her mind that wouldn’t leave her be; these characters would become the Blythe sisters who would later be the prominent characters in The Distant Hours. I had The Distant Hours on my bookshelf but hadn’t gotten to it yet. After hearing from Kate that these characters were so insistent in her mind, I thought I really wanted to read this book sooner rather than later.
The novel started out very strong. In the beginning, Morton gives us the start of several story lines that will converge together: long lost letter delivered, questions about a mother’s past, mysterious castle and the sisters who live there, a troubled writer who experiences great loss. Edie is one of the main characters whose story blends the past and present. In her efforts to uncover her mother’s secrets from her teenage years during World War II, she encounters the Blythe sisters. The three Blythe sisters (twins and a younger sister) are living alone, isolated in their castle, careful not to let anyone get too close. Rumors and stories about the spinster sisters are passed around in the local town. Edie manages to break through their self-inflicted isolation and the truth of past events will eventually be discovered.
True to Morton style, secrets are slowly unraveled and the reader gradually learns the truth of what happened but there are some twists and turns to get there. When we think we know what happened and understand the motivations of the characters, things get turned on us again. I normally don’t mind this but I felt the middle of the novel seems to lose some of its momentum.
However, even with that bit of disappointment at the middle, I still believe this is a great book for those who enjoy mysteries, romance, and tales of familial woe. And with the dark castle full of secrets, there’s a tribute to the classic gothic novels from the past. The Blythe sisters are memorable characters; I can understand why they were insistent for Morton. Their multiple heartbreaks and how they each changed because of those heartbreaks create their isolation, both mentally and physically. I would give The Distant Hours a solid 4 out of 5 stars and a hearty recommendation.