The Distant Hours is a multigenerational puzzle complete with a decaying castle, hidden manuscripts and not one but two families with secrets.
There's a lot to chew on in this month's selection of top paperback releases. From the world of medicine to hidden family secrets, these titles make terrific book club fodder.
The Distant Hours is Australian author, Kate Morton’s third novel. The novel plays out over two time periods: the early 1940s and 50 years later. The story begins when Meredith Burchill receives a letter that has been delayed by 50 years. The letter is from one of the Blythe sisters of Milderhurst Castle in Kent, to where Meredith was evacuated from London during the war. Her daughter Edith watches her reaction and is inwardly sceptical when her mother dismisses the letter as unimportant. Sometime later, Edith’s publishing job takes her near Milderhurst Castle, where she is drawn to know more about the place her mother stayed, the place that was also home to the famous author, Raymond Blythe. She meets the elderly sisters Blythe: the twins, Persephone (Percy) and Seraphina (Saffy) and the much younger (and mad) Juniper (June), during a tour of the Castle. Whilst there, she hears something of the events of 50 years previous that have left Juniper stuck on October 29th, 1941. Juniper still waits for the expected fiancé who never arrived. This book is filled with wonderful prose (“And then had come the rain, great sobbing drops that brought an immediate sheen to the world.” and “The room bore an unmistakeable signature of stillness”). The characters develop well: Morton binds the sisters in an intricate tangle of love and duty and resentment. The plot is involved and interesting enough to keep the reader turning pages. By about a third of the way through I was convinced I had figured out who dunnit, as I think many readers will be. It was such a lovely read, though, that I kept going and was duly surprised by the twist at the end. The epilogue was a superb touch. A very enjoyable read.