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.
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.
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 think the title of this book gives you a preview of the way you will feel when reading it. That is, "The distant hours from now that I will finally finish this very long story that is sure taking a long time to develop...those hours just seem so far away right now (because they are!)"
I really enjoyed the Forgotten Garden, so I was excited about The Distant Hours. However, I was left feeling "meh" about the story. Some of the characters appear to be Sociopaths (anyone that has read or listened to "The Sociopath Next Door" would likely agree) but then their actions are not consistent with what appears to be their agenda.
The book was very depressing for me. Dark. Sad. Just a lot of melancholy and sadness. The bright spots were so few. I think before I read/listen to another Kate Morton, I will read the reviews.
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.
Take the time to get into it. The story is amazing, both dark and lovely at the same time. Beautiful language and wonderful imagination.
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.
"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.
Good easy listening, with a story which holds your interest till the end.
Big fan of Kate, all her books have been well written and interesting.
As I liked The Forgotten Garden a lot, I chose another audiobook by the same author and also the same narrator. I found the story very engaging. Despite being very long my attention was held throughout the book. All the characters are very interesting and well described. In my opinion the narrator was really good. I am looking forward to the next Kate Morton release, hopefully with the same narrator, Caroline Lee!
"well written & well narrated, an enjoyable listen"
This is the first audio book I have listened to and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story engaged me from start to finish. I must also commend the narrator as she was easy to listen to and narrated the tale well. I would highly recommend it. If you liked the forgotten garden by Kate Morton, you will love this book
I enjoyed listening to The Distant Hours, skillfuly narrated by Caroline Lee. The book entranced me and I loved the characters and the scenery, but I felt the ending was a little weak, hence the four stars.
The narrative is split between two time zones; London in the 1990s and Milderhurst Castle, Kent in WWII. The two are linked by Edie Burchill and her mother who was evacuated to the castle during the war. Under rather strange circumstances, a letter from 1941 arrives for Edie's mother over 50 years late, and she is devastated. Edie can't extract much information from her secretive mother and so, when she finds herself at the gates of Milderhurst Castle a few weeks later, she cannot resist the temptation to investigate. By now the castle is a crumbling heap, barely housing its three elderly sisters.
Personally I found the WWII story line to be the strongest of the two, with the castle as a fourth character amongst the fascinating, intertwined sisters, twins Persephone and Seraphina and their younger sister Juniper. Their father, Raymond Blythe was an authoriatrian man, a writer, author of The True History of the Mud Man, which just happened to be Edie's favourite childhood book. The story of how this book came to be written was fascinating but I was less convinced by some of the other denouements.
I enjoyed The House at Riverton more than The Distant Hours, mainly because the plot seemed stronger. In many ways they are alike; the darkly Gothic buildings forming a backdrop to the narrative. The excess pages that other reviewers commented on, would probably have bothered me too, if I hadn't had the luxury of being narrated to.
"What on earth is going on with the narrator?"
Why oh why would you choose an Australian to read a book mostly set in rural Kent and London's East End during WW2? It is painful to hear an otherwise good actress read in Dick Van Dyke Down Under.
Luckily she didn't spoil a good book for me - I felt it was rather predictable and overlong. But I know Kate Morton is loved by others so don't let me put you off.
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