Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.
Evacuated from London as a 12-year-old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe and taken to live at Milderhurst Castle with the Blythe family: Juniper, her twin sisters, and their father, Raymond.
Fifty years later, as Edie chases the answers to her mother’s riddle. She, too, is drawn to Milderhurst Castle and the eccentric sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness.
Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. For the truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it....
©2010 Kate Morton (P)2010 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
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You have to be in just the right mood to enjoy this book, like being in the right place at the right time; thankfully I was and therefore, I just adored it! I got so drawn into the characters and the world they inhabit, that I even DREAMT about them! That’s a first for me.
It’s also the first time I can use the expression “curled up” with a book and mean it – it was like comfort food and getting back to it was like going to find out what my good friends have been up to while I was away.
In a nut shell, it’s a slow moving mystery about a woman who delves into her mother’s past and stumbles upon the story (and secrets) of three sisters during the 1940s, now old spinsters living in a dilapidated castle. Their tale is told through discoveries made by our present-day protagonist, weaved in with scenes from the prescriptive of the various key characters as their story unfolds before the war.
The characters were so perfectly depicted, I felt like I knew them personally and it was easy to get so completely sucked into their orb. The author’s ability to paint scenes with words was so first-rate to me that I felt like I was actually there at times, as if I could FEEL the surroundings yet it was not so overly descriptive that I couldn’t use my own imagination to flesh out the view in my mind.
My mood was ideal for getting carried away in this story. It’s not an “edge of your seat” mystery, but rather a tale that uncoils slowly with bits and pieces of clues revealed here and there, leaving you guessing until pretty much the end. Like a ribbon slowly unravelling.
If you want wall to wall action, put it aside and get back to it when you feel the need for slow (almost drawn out but never boring or tedious) escapism instead.
Having adjusted my expectations after reading several lackluster reviews of "The Distant Hours", I was happily surprised to find myself mesmerized by this complex, layered, romantic story. Listening as I knitted, gardened, cooked, and hung laundry, I was glad for the slow pace, the detailed descriptions that transported me in space and time, and the character development which made Juniper, Saffy, Percy, Meridith, and Edie real and sympathetic. Kate Morton crafts her language, and I savored her almost poetic descriptions of Milderhurst Castle. I loved that she took the time to tell the story properly, having faith that the reader would prefer quality over pace. When something is as beautiful as "The Distant Hours", I'd really rather not be rushed.
If you enjoyed Morton's other books, you may find this one to be your favorite. The narration is excellent, and the twists in the plot line keep you guessing til the end. I always suggest the Forgotten Garden to newbie audio listeners, and this one is almost always their second download.
Heres hoping Morton writes more soon!
Distant Hours starts you off on a gentle stroll in the English countryside , slowly introducing you to the oh so British characters. Then, all of sudden, the listener is totally sucked into the mystery and drama that enfolds, with pieces that don’t totally come together until just about the last page. Fascinating glimpse of English life in the war years, 1940s, and then present day, with a rewarding mystery ingeniously interwoven. The Forgotten Garden was one of my favorite listens, and this novel was just as good. Kate Morton is a wondrous story teller.
I have listened to all of Kate Morton's books and they are all equally excellent. Her ability to build characters, and move the listener/reader from the past to the present is superb. I would highly recommend her books to everyone.
Yes this book is beautifully written and nicely narrated, and the story is engaging. In book form I would have enjoyed it, as I would have been free to skim over some of the incredibly exhausting details. Trapped in my car with the audio version, however, this option was not available. There is just far too much detail and far too much time spent on matters that are largely irrelevant to the plot. For some readers who enjoy the journey more than the destination, this is a positive thing I know but for me, way too frustrating. I thought I would tear my hair out in the final couple of hours, waiting for the end to come, and having to endure endless amounts of descriptive prose. As I said, beautifully written, no denying that, and the author has a truly impressive ability to paint a mental picture, but for me, just too long.
I'm a voracious reader who unfortunately spends a lot of time on the road. Audiobooks make my life a lot better.
Reviewing this book is difficult for me. I often wondered what made me download it in the first place. I think must have been the blurb and the on-line ratings/reviews, but going back to look at them, I'm not sure I recognize any of them.
What kept me going, and made me ultimately finish this book was not the story, which really didn't do much for me. It seemed a bit contrived, a kind of mystery without much point to it, by my lights. By the time I finally found out what actually happened, it seemed like I had already considered every possible solution, although whether I really considered the actual solution is something I can't recall.
No, what made me finish the book was the writing. The author is a superb writer, and can make even things that are pretty uninteresting tweak one's ears. Her imagery is incredibly vivid, and some of the metaphors and similes she comes up with just made me smile while I was listening and wondering why I can't write in a similar manner. I wish I had written down some examples to quote here, but I'm certainly not going back to find them.
And I can't say that the narration wasn't a big part of it. I am one of many Americans who find British accents very appealing to the ear. I suspect that if this was read in a bland Midwest US accent I would have not finished it and even returned it. Whether I would have do so with a print version we'll never know.
The story was so convoluted that I think know I lost my place at least twice and listened to quite a few minutes over again; it took me a while to find where I left off and even then I wasn't sure. It didn't make me as mad as it could have in other books, because listening to her prose again was never bad.
And yeah, I guess it's a "chick book" and I'm a guy, but one who often likes chick books. Usually what I like about these books are the deeply developed characters. The cast in this book seem a bit thin to me and the switching back and forth between 1941 and the 1990's was not really done all that smoothly; it's hard to do anyway, and I guess this story would have been almost impossible to tell without shifting timelines, so I'm not sure how the author could fix this issue in a way that would make me happy.
In short, I wouldn't think of returning the book; I got too much pleasure out of listening to it. I think it's probably MUCH better audio than in print, and the author's lyrical and imagery writing skills are prodigious. If you don't like female English accents for a very long book, then it's not for you (although this was not a minus for me)
Although I will certainly check out the author's other selections on Audible, I will be very careful and drag my feet before buying another Kate Morton book unless I can be a little more sure of the plot line.
Take the time to get into it. The story is amazing, both dark and lovely at the same time. Beautiful language and wonderful imagination.
There is fine line between suspense and tedium, and I'm not sure that Kate Morton has mastered it! The story is interesting enough . . . but not entirely plausable. The wordsmithing is skilled - almost lyrical - but not enough to keep the reader entirely engaged. For those who fell in love with "The Forgotten Garden" - this book will not measure up.
I've just come to the end of this book ... it's a great tale but completely spoilt for me by the australian accents. The 'East End of London' australian accent of the war years didn't 'do it' for me I'm afraid. The yarn is quite a good one but - and I'm sorry there is a 'but' - it's rather drawn out and predictable at the end ... I ended up guessing (correctly) what was going to happen next. However, I always buy nice long books to see me through the night and this was a good, long tale, with twists and turns. A bit lightweight as it turns out but good to pass the time of night ...
"Down to you"
The Distant Hours in very much in the style of the gothic novel and the extent to which you enjoy it is down to you.
As a sporadic gothic reader,this was a good yarn that kept me engaged (although I must admit I occasionally dropped off and then spent ages looking for the last bit I recognised though not while I was in the car I might add.
If you're looking for great literature, apt to nitpick about writing style and historical accuracy this is not for you. There's nothing glaring and nothing that stops this being a well crafted engaging story throughout.
On reading other reviews,I was struck by how polarised they were.
When I was tired from work and had a long car journey ahead of me at the weekend, this was great entertainment. Enjoy
"Captivating ...Do not miss"
Moreton creates the most endearing characters and I felt every nuance of emotion as I listened to this wonderful tale. The intrigue was fabulous and I was as excited as the lead character Edie Burchill as the mysteries unfolded. I could truly see the castle in my minds eye & my heart was pounding as ?I? walked the castle corridors along with Edie & the Sisters Blithe. There are so many different strands to this narrative; each character having a specific tale to tell, each story intertwines, impacting on each other. The twists and turns keep you hooked until the very last page. I took long walks, looked for excuses to go out in the car, unnecessary housework and even went to the gym just to allow me to keep listening ! Narration excellent.
This book is not quite as good as the first 2 (House at Riverton & Forgotten Garden) But enjoyable non the less.. My one gripe is that The narrator is an Australian doing a rather poor English accent. If its an english Story, why not get an English person to narrate?
"Plodding story, but a relaxing listen."
Yes if they wanted a relaxing story that moved at a pedantic pace.
I didn't get to the end of the book. But may possibly revisit at a later stage.
"A great listen"
The Distant Hours is an intriguing listen, beautifully read by Caroline Lee. Her voice suits the narrator role and makes the storytelling all the more believable. The story, itself, builds gradually and holds your attention as it unfolds over differing timeframes and dimensions. All of the characters add something to the tale and you are drawn into each part of the story, almost forgetting where you were before until that character's narrative is picked up again. Overall, a very engaging listen.
I was completely engrossed listening to this book, hence the title of the review. I got lost in this story for hours on end. I found all the characters completely believable, some not particularly likeable, but each one drew me in to the story. There was a shade of the Miss Haversham's with unrequited love and I've always loved Great Expectations, so that's perhaps why this drew me in so well. A mystery, a ghost story and one that kept me listening and eager to know more.
"The narrator's accent really grates"
The story is wonderful, but heavens above, the telling of this tale is really marred by the choice of an Australian to narrate a very British story.
I would give the book a 4 or even a 5 - but the narrator's accent really grated on my nerves and I was conscious of it the whole time.
The author never fails, this is an easy listen. I was initially unsure re the readers accent and didn't know if it suited the story but was soon dying to go to bed to listen further.I loved it but preferred the authors other other books.
"passes the time, but a bit disappointing"
I really enjoyed Kate Morton's The Shifting Fog/House at Riverton but was a bit disappointed by this. I found it hard to care about the main character, but once it gets going it does carry you along. However, the whole 'mystery' seemed a bit contrived and over-complicated. It is also so drawn out that you have guessed the truth long before you actually get there. It is obviously in the gothic tradition, which I like, but felt like it tried a bit too hard and might have been better had it been simplified. There was a satisfying spooky shiver at the point that I thought was the end, spoilt by an implausible and slightly cheesy postscript.
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