Violet's Reviews > The Distant Hours

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
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Oct 06, 2013

it was amazing
bookshelves: realistic-fiction, historical-fiction, mystery, favorite-authors, british, fantasy, 5-stars

The dark shadows crouch in the corners whispering amongst themselves, recounting tales of love and loss. Heavy stone piles high above them keeping a look out, preventing the intrusion of others. The outside is not welcome here in this lone and decaying building, standing ominously above the town as if ripped from a gothic fairytale. Three sisters live there amongst the shadows and stones, trapped by the duty of their stale present and the ancestors of their mysterious past. They are the Sisters Bythe, living within the walls of their ancestral home, Milderhurst Castle, a place where the rooms still hum with the “distant hours” of the far way and the long gone.

But this story doesn’t start there. It begins in London where a lost letter is delivered fifty years too late, and Edie Burchill is mystified by her mother’s emotional reaction. Edie hadn’t known it at the time, but her mother had once lived far away from the dirty streets of London. She had briefly called Milderhurst Castle her home during WWII when she was evacuated, back when the stone walls protected its inhabitants from the wrath of Hitler instead of trapping them there to helplessly watch the passing of time. But the protection was soon to fade and the walls were closing in upon them.

You feel for these characters, unaware of their fate. Kate Morton has always been able to do this, to create characters that suck you in, that make you shout and sigh and cry. I realize now that was the one redeeming quality of her other book, The Secret Keeper. Her pages always seem to be populated with people so vivid that you can’t help but briefly invest your whole being into the events of their lives. That’s partly why this book hurt me so. Not all of it is cheery. It’s not a Jane Austen novel.

And the funny thing is that it doesn’t really matter. The beauty of her words and phrases, missing in The Secret Keeper and fully present in her second novel, The Forgotten Garden, make everything alright. They’re as warm as a cup of tea on a cold and chilly night. They make everything come alive and while it may be a cliché, they really do transport you, pulling you into the pages and holding you in a warm embrace.

That’s what makes this story so powerful. Nagging regrets, complex maternal relationships, powerful familial duty, and desperate longing appear and fill your heart like a rushing waterfall. You can almost feel the stone walls of Milderhurst Castle materializing around you.

And I can assure you; those stones will never fade from the corners of your mind. The fairytale-like setting, nestled amongst overgrown brush will hide in the shadows of your thoughts. It’s a place with too many whispering shadows and watching stones, recording and telling about the many ages that have shifted beneath the roof, the strange “distant hours” of the past. It’s a building in which three aged sisters sit, slowly fading away into the walls that they have been trapped by. It’s a somber image that will stick with you, haunt you, long into the hours of your distant future.
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Reading Progress

09/07/2013 marked as: currently-reading
10/06/2013 marked as: read

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