The Distant Hours
Atria, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
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Reviewed by Joan Burton
ver since Edie Burchill was a young girl, she loved books and the written word. An only child, she was neither nurtured by her parents, nor had a close relationship with her mother. Now at thirty she works as an editor for a small publishing house in London. When Edie learns that a lost letter from fifty years ago was delivered to her mother Meredith, she becomes curious. Edie witnesses the effect the letter has on her mother and feels its subject might be what has kept them distanced from each other. Meredith refuses to speak of her past and Edie only knows that her mother was one of thousands of young children evacuated from London during the World War II blitz. Meredith was sent to the countryside in Kent to live with the Blythe family at Milderhurst Castle.
s fate would have it, Edie is sent to Kent to Milderhurst Castle to write a story for the local paper. She meets the three elderly, spinster sisters whose father, Raymond Blythe, wrote the classic children's book,
The True History of the Mud Man
in 1917. Blythe had a very unhappy life. His two wives both died from tragic circumstances, and his mother jumped to her death from the castle tower. Blythe became a recluse and believed
The Mud Man
was coming back for him. He suffered spells and was on medication until his death. Juniper, the youngest daughter, now spends her days teetering on the edge of madness, after the disappearance of her fiancÚ in 1941. Percy and Saffy, the older twin sisters, take care of Juniper and the decaying castle, trying to live up to their father's wishes.
s Katie begins her research, she takes on a journey of discovery. She keeps her true identity from the Blythe's, but Juniper is drawn to her and calls her Meredith. As Katie seeks out answers from the past, we travel back to wartime when there were bombings, blackouts, and rationing. We are told the story of the Blythe sisters and of Meredith arriving into a dark world of secrets and lies. Katie unravels her mother's past and long ago mysteries are brought to light.
The Distant Hours
is a multi-layered novel, put together like a puzzle, one piece at a time. In each chapter we are suspended until another truth is revealed. This is an amazing story and in my opinion it is Morton's best to date.
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