Review: The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Title: The Distant Hours
Author: Kate Morton
Genre: gothic
Series: N/A
Pages: 565
Published: 2010
Source: purchased
Rating: 5/5

A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WWII. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.

Morton once again enthralls readers with an atmospheric story featuring unforgettable characters beset by love and circumstance and haunted by memory, that reminds us of the rich power of storytelling.

Haunting, evocative, and gothic are just a few of the words that could describe Kate Morton's masterpiece The Distant Hours. Set in the countryside of Kent at differing times in the 19th century for a wide array of connected characters, it's an impressive effort from a seasoned writer. Morton has proved time and time before she can write adeptly, that she can intertwine and obfuscate plotlines until the grand reveal is one of both surprise and sense. The Distant Hours is her best novel yet, the best example of her many gifts as a storyteller; it pulls no punches and ignores no plotline. There's not a page or a word that is wasted; the stage is perfectly set and Kate Morton directs her cast into a virutoso performance with ease.

Without veering into hyperbole I can attest that this is the ultimate in modern gothic storytelling; the hidden stories of Milderhurst castle, from the early 1900s to the early 1990s are shown to be one finely-tuned plot, hinted and hidden behind a superb sleight of hand and shared between the most unlikely of people. The well-rendered characters, from the King Lear-ish figure in Raymond Blythe to his Havisham-esque trio of daughters, are laden with secrets in their moldering castle. The slow reveal of the Blythe family helped one another and hid things for and from each other is an anticipatory delight. The first four hundred pages are a painstaking build of tension and atmosphere; the last one hundred and fifty are increasingly fraught with realization and crucially timed plot points. It all coalesces without missing a step; the ending is perfect in its undeniability and yet how it still manages to subvert expectation.

Though each of her novels are framed similarly and can follow familiar themes, no two are alike in anything from voice to character and they are each impossible to predict. Morton has a firm handle on reader expectation and how to subvert it. Her stories are authentic and easy to immerse within but they are complicated and demand reader attention. The investment of time and energy is worth it because the end of her novels tend to shock, and wow, while engendering real emotion. The Distant Hours does all of that; even on a third rereead it's impossible to not feel empathy and community with not only the Sisters Blythe but also intrepid Edie, shy Meredith, or loquacious Mrs. Bird. The Distant Hours is a gothic novel but it feels present and real, and that is in no little thanks to life in its multifaceted characters.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Copyright © 2015 Ageless Pages Reviews. All Rights Reserved.

Amelia Theme by The Lovely Design CO and These Paper Hearts.