The Distant Hours

Written by Kate Morton
Review by Jane Kessler

Edie Burchill works at a small publishing firm in London. Edie, a reader and a dreamer, has always had a distant relationship with her practical mother. One day in 1992, Edie’s mother receives a letter originally posted in 1941, which reduces her to tears. The letter came from Milderhurst Castle, where her mother stayed during World War II when she was evacuated from London. Milderhurst was the home of writer Raymond Blythe, the author of Edie’s favorite book, The True History of the Mud Man. Edie is consumed with curiosity about this period of her mother’s life and her reluctance to speak of it. When she happens by the castle on a business trip, she jumps at the opportunity to take a tour and meet the inhabitants, Raymond Blythe’s three elderly daughters.

The story of the tragic events of the distant hours of the past is slowly revealed in flashbacks from each sister’s perspective. Kate Morton’s wonderful story contains gothic elements aplenty (a castle, a monster, madness, storms, and family secrets), which she weaves into an engrossing and suspenseful tale. I particularly enjoyed how the castle itself has a real presence in this book. To some it is a welcoming shelter from the world and a symbol of family from which they draw their strength. To others, it is a prison and a tool by which they are controlled. Much to my delight, the ending was a surprise. Highly recommended.