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The #1 internationally bestselling author of The Forgotten Garden mesmerizes readers with this haunting tale of long-buried secrets and the twists of fate that can alter lives forever.

It starts with a letter, lost for half a century and unexpectedly delivered to Edie’s mother on a Sunday afternoon. The letter leads Edie to Milderhurst Castle, where the eccentric Blythe spinsters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted during World War II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives caring for their younger sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiancé jilted her in 1941. Inside the decaying castle, Edie searches for her mother’s past but soon learns there are other secrets hidden in its walls. The truth of what happened in “the distant hours” has been waiting a long time for someone to find it. In this enthralling romantic thriller, Morton pays homage to the classics of gothic fiction, spinning a rich and intricate web of mystery, suspense, and lost love.

Topics: Family, World War II, Sisters, Secrets, Mothers and Daughters, Death, Love, Suspenseful, Haunting, Gothic, England, and 1990s

Published: Atria Books on Nov 9, 2010
ISBN: 9781439199343
List price: $11.99
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I will officially read whatever Morton writes. After my experience with The Forgotten Garden last year I knew I liked her style, but this book cemented it for me. Her books can certainly run a bit longer than they need to be, but when it comes to a gothic mystery with old ruined castles and buried secrets, I like a bit of meandering. I don’t read it sitting on the edge of my seat for the big reveal in the end. I guessed some plot twists and was surprised by others, but the twist isn't really the point with her books. You're so fascinated by the characters that you want to know what happens, but you’re also comfortable slowly peeling back the layers.Three elderly sisters, Juniper, Saffy and Percy, live alone in Milderhurst Castle. The story’s central character, Edie, stumbles upon their home after her mother reveals that she lived with them for a short time during the London bombings in WWII. The story bounces back and forth between WWII and 1992. There are about five minor and major plots that weave together; Edie’s personal life, her mother’s story, the back story of each of the three sisters, their father’s history and the story behind his famous book (The True History of the Mud Man). It sounds like a lot, but it never becomes confusing. There’s a bit of love, broken hearts, abandoned dreams and, of course, family secrets. The sisters are wonderful characters. Juniper, the baby of the family, is a recreation of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. Saffy is a sweet-natured woman who can’t seem to stand up to her twin sister. Percy is the headstrong eldest sister and she takes care of everyone in her family, whether they like it or not. The trio has a great dynamic, both as elderly women in 1992 and young women during the war. There’s an intense protective nature in everything they do they speaks to the unbreakable bonds of a family. The Forgotten Garden is my favorite of Morton’s books so far, but I really enjoyed this one. I’m looking forward to reading The House at Riverton and whatever she writes next. If you loved The Thirteenth Tale or Rebecca, I would highly recommend this one. “It’s a funny thing, character, the way it brands people as they age, rising from within to leave its scar.”“Lack of potatoes left a person’s stomach growling, but absence of beauty hardened the soul.”“I can’t imagine facing the end of the day without a story to drop into on my way towards sleep.”“Insecurities and hurts, anxieties and fears grow teeth at night.” read more
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THE DISTANT HOURS by Kate Morton first introduces us to Edith. Edith is an editor who gets stuck having to, needing to, or wanting to unravel various mysteries throughout the book. All of them in one way or the other have to do with “the sisters Blythe” and their author father. There are three “sisters Blythe”: two twins and their much younger half sister. We meet them first in 1940s England, during World War II. They live in a castle with their father. And we get snippets of their lives in both flashbacks and the 1990s as the story progresses. In this way, we learn more and more about each of them and the castle’s hold on them.The Blythe family is strange. But Morton tells their story well, so well that by the second half of the book, I didn’t want to put it down.But I had to get through the first half first. It was all interesting and told me what I really did need to know about the Blythe family history. But I could have done with fewer details.The second half, though, is outstanding. I’m very glad I stuck with it.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book has all the elements that should make a really good, entertaining read. There's a decrepit and decaying English country house falling into ruin around three sisters, one of which is quite mad. There's the story of their family and how the mad sister got that way. And there's the story of a mother and daughter trying to bridge the gap between them. Sounds great, right? For me, not so much. First, this book is HUGE which means it's a pain in the ass to lug around, read in bed, etc. If the book is really good I don't mind huge (I recently re-read a 931 page tome that I carried around with me for a week), but if it's huge just to be huge I have a ... well ... huge problem. This just wasn't engaging enough for me and there was too much set up without any real punch. I neither liked nor cared about anyone in the book and was still unengaged around page 250 (which in many instances is the length of a full novel - that's about 1/3 of the way into this one). The whole thing just became one big chore of needing to lug around the book and dreading to read it. I read the Wall Street Journal on BART to avoid having to read this and that means I'm really done. Ah well.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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I will officially read whatever Morton writes. After my experience with The Forgotten Garden last year I knew I liked her style, but this book cemented it for me. Her books can certainly run a bit longer than they need to be, but when it comes to a gothic mystery with old ruined castles and buried secrets, I like a bit of meandering. I don’t read it sitting on the edge of my seat for the big reveal in the end. I guessed some plot twists and was surprised by others, but the twist isn't really the point with her books. You're so fascinated by the characters that you want to know what happens, but you’re also comfortable slowly peeling back the layers.Three elderly sisters, Juniper, Saffy and Percy, live alone in Milderhurst Castle. The story’s central character, Edie, stumbles upon their home after her mother reveals that she lived with them for a short time during the London bombings in WWII. The story bounces back and forth between WWII and 1992. There are about five minor and major plots that weave together; Edie’s personal life, her mother’s story, the back story of each of the three sisters, their father’s history and the story behind his famous book (The True History of the Mud Man). It sounds like a lot, but it never becomes confusing. There’s a bit of love, broken hearts, abandoned dreams and, of course, family secrets. The sisters are wonderful characters. Juniper, the baby of the family, is a recreation of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. Saffy is a sweet-natured woman who can’t seem to stand up to her twin sister. Percy is the headstrong eldest sister and she takes care of everyone in her family, whether they like it or not. The trio has a great dynamic, both as elderly women in 1992 and young women during the war. There’s an intense protective nature in everything they do they speaks to the unbreakable bonds of a family. The Forgotten Garden is my favorite of Morton’s books so far, but I really enjoyed this one. I’m looking forward to reading The House at Riverton and whatever she writes next. If you loved The Thirteenth Tale or Rebecca, I would highly recommend this one. “It’s a funny thing, character, the way it brands people as they age, rising from within to leave its scar.”“Lack of potatoes left a person’s stomach growling, but absence of beauty hardened the soul.”“I can’t imagine facing the end of the day without a story to drop into on my way towards sleep.”“Insecurities and hurts, anxieties and fears grow teeth at night.” 
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
THE DISTANT HOURS by Kate Morton first introduces us to Edith. Edith is an editor who gets stuck having to, needing to, or wanting to unravel various mysteries throughout the book. All of them in one way or the other have to do with “the sisters Blythe” and their author father. There are three “sisters Blythe”: two twins and their much younger half sister. We meet them first in 1940s England, during World War II. They live in a castle with their father. And we get snippets of their lives in both flashbacks and the 1990s as the story progresses. In this way, we learn more and more about each of them and the castle’s hold on them.The Blythe family is strange. But Morton tells their story well, so well that by the second half of the book, I didn’t want to put it down.But I had to get through the first half first. It was all interesting and told me what I really did need to know about the Blythe family history. But I could have done with fewer details.The second half, though, is outstanding. I’m very glad I stuck with it.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This book has all the elements that should make a really good, entertaining read. There's a decrepit and decaying English country house falling into ruin around three sisters, one of which is quite mad. There's the story of their family and how the mad sister got that way. And there's the story of a mother and daughter trying to bridge the gap between them. Sounds great, right? For me, not so much. First, this book is HUGE which means it's a pain in the ass to lug around, read in bed, etc. If the book is really good I don't mind huge (I recently re-read a 931 page tome that I carried around with me for a week), but if it's huge just to be huge I have a ... well ... huge problem. This just wasn't engaging enough for me and there was too much set up without any real punch. I neither liked nor cared about anyone in the book and was still unengaged around page 250 (which in many instances is the length of a full novel - that's about 1/3 of the way into this one). The whole thing just became one big chore of needing to lug around the book and dreading to read it. I read the Wall Street Journal on BART to avoid having to read this and that means I'm really done. Ah well.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Reading the Distant Hours by Kate Morton was like building a fire. First you bank the fireplace with dry, unappealing logs; then you add some lit kindling that will be the spark that will engage the logs into fire. Once the fire is going strong; it is warm, inviting, colorful and near impossible to extinguish. This explains exactly how I feel about my time with The Distant Hours.The first 150 pages for me were the logs. I didn't quite know if the book was going to amount to anything worth spending time with. The book is over 500 pages long and I knew that if I continued it would be a good investment of reading time. At this point, I actually read some reviews of the book and found that mostly it had gotten very good reviews. So I continued. Right now, I am very glad I did.I was drawn to this book because I really enjoyed reading The Forgotten Garden, an earlier novel by Kate Morton. I believe that The Distant Hours far surpasses that story.The story is based around a book that was written by one of the characters, The Story of the Mud Man. Raymond Blythe, the father figure in the novel gains attention as a writer himself when he writes The Mud Man story.The Blythe family lives in a castle, Milderhurst in England. Twin sisters, Percy and Saffy, born from his first marriage live in the Castle long after his death along with a sister, Juniper from another marriage. Juniper seems to have become as demented at Raymond and so must be taken care of by the twins.A young editor, Edie, is drawn to the castle first by the book itself (her favorite) and then by secrets she uncovers about her mother who during the war was an evacuee who lived at the castle.The story, like the fire I referred to earlier, builds until it becomes totally engaged. Once engaged it is near impossible to put down.I recommend The Distant Hours but caution that it must be given time to build, time to be read slowly and time to be digested. I know now that I have become a very huge fan of Kate Morton and intend to read her first book The House on Riverton as soon as I can.
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THE DISTANT HOURSKate MortonAtria Publications, A Simon & Shuster ImprintHardcover 576 pagesThis copy 672 pagesPublication Date: Nov. 9, 2010Read 10/26 to 10/30.Advanced Uncorrected Proof provided but without an indication of from whom other than the publisher.I am certain it was not sent un-solicited so I must have won or requested it.To whomever sent it, thank you.Like all books I write about, it will receive an honest review. Book Description 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 WW II. 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. Atria Books: Simon & SchusterAuthor BioKate Morton, a native Australian, holds degrees in dramatic art and English literature and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Queensland. She lives with her family in Brisbane, Australia. Atria Books: Simon & SchusterMy ReviewThe synopsis I read of this book, where ever I read it, I recall hinted at secrets and mysteries. "Hmm," I thought, "Subtle magic." But, this was not a paranormal book in the sense of what I usually read or review, nor was it really a book where a subtle magic is utilized.The magic here is the dark magic of secrets too long kept, mysteries too long unsolved, guilt and psychosis which fills this book. This magic isn't cold, rather, it sears with the heat of repressed guilt and anger, and unfulfilled dreams.The story takes place in two time periods, the era surrounding World War II in Britain, and 1992. The WWII period is roughly from the very start when children were evacuated from London until a year or two after Dunkirk. It starts in London were Edith and Meredith Birchill are preparing to have their Sunday dinner when a letter is passed into their mail slot even though there should not have been a delivery. It is a letter from Meredith's childhood as an evacuee. She has never told her husband or daughter about this part of her youth and refuses to elaborate. When Edie learns of it she is curious, and her curiosity is further aroused when she, very accidentally, happens on the very place to which her mother was evacuated. Like a cat to the windowsill outside of which a birdfeeder hangs, Edie is drawn into the mystery of why her mother's reticence. Then as she learns more, the mysteries of the house itself and the people who live there. which grow more complex and intertwined as she digs deeper. She gets more than she bargained for, there are ghostly visions a few times — imagined or real, one doesn't know.Another part of the darkness of the book is about the control a parent can exert over a child and continue to exert even after they pass away. In this book that control is passed on to another family member, Percy, who controls the lives of her twin, Saffy, and half-sister with disastrous results. While there is a strong plot the book is character-driven and one of the objectives was that Edie learn more about the mother who has hidden her joyous self away in a middle class, steak-and-chips British housewife. As a character-driven work, Morton makes each character come to life in one's mind. Each character springs to life from the page. Juniper, the young half-sister, is a free spirit, and talented but undirected writer suffering from a psychosis or schizophrenia. Twins Percy and Saffy are completely the opposite of each other; Saffy is soft, yielding, considerate, yearns to get away and Percy is a bit butch, harsh, capable and would like to stay in their castle forever. But, within Saffy, there is also an unyielding strength of devotion to her sisters. Even incidental characters get somewhat developed, as if we can look into their homes a bit.At 672 pages, this was a bit longer than many of the books I normally read, and filled more with the internal maunderings of the characters than the action to which I am accustomed. As I generally prefer plot-driven books this dragged a bit for me. Much internal work on the part of at least five characters was “holding up” the somethings that needed to happen in order to resolve the several mysteries that are being explored. And, just when I had a grasp on what I thought was the plot it would grow another layer. But, having said that, the work is so complete, and Morton is such a talented and capable writer that it was an enjoyable and poignant read that helped me stretch a bit as a reader. I would most assuredly recommend it to anyone who enjoys this type of in-depth character development, and maybe even those who prefer more plot. Maybe the development was the real work of the book. The mysteries are solved quickly and at the end, and while not rushed, feel incidental to the resulting relationship between Edie and her mother, Meredith.Well worth the time and price, especially as it is being heavily discounted by Amazon.
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I am certain this will be a bestseller. It is a wonderfully enticing tale that leads you back to World War II-era England and again to present day. Layers of interwoven mysteries hold you until the very last page. It is the first novel of Kate Morton's that I have read, but it won't be the last!
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