Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

Reviewed by Lucia.

Published: 2010.

It's about: It all started when Raymond Blythe wrote the celebrated children's book 'The True History of the Mud Man.' However the answer to the question of the author's inspiration puzzling readers and critics and is lodged further back than most would guess, its repercussions still resonating soundly when narrator Edie begins to discover how her mother's childhood intertwines with the Blythe family's enigmatic history. Still living together in Milderhurst Castle, Kent, the Blythe sisters nurse their own secrets and regrets as well as their youngest sister Juniper, for whom life crashed to a halt the night during WWII when her fiance abandoned her.

I thought: I read this book partly as part of my vow to read more by Aussie authors, but mostly because the blurb sounded brilliant and I like the author. Morton's rambling, descriptive and sometimes unconventional style does not appeal to many, but to me it doesn't seem forced. It's detailed enought to be well thought out and engaging, but it doesn't lag. Occasionally the foreshadowing becomes excessive, but I liked having lots of ends to tidy and seeing how the author dealt with an undoubtedly complex plot. One aspect which confused me was the narration. Some sections were told in the first person by Edie, but some were in third person and reflected on the Blythe sisters' pasts. I was never sure if Edie knew about what was being discussed in these third person segments.

This is not an uplifting story. The talent, life, vibrance and originality which goes to waste through the Blythe sisters is depressing. Yet the way in which Morton creates this tangle around Raymond Blythe's influence is engrossing. In this way, the story reminded me of Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I was always partially astonished and impressed by the power Lady Marchmain held over her children. She is often not present in the story and seems to feature very little, however her decisions, actions and influence blanket the plot. Similarly, Raymond Blythe is dead for most of the novel (this is in the blurb, no plot twist revealed).

Verdict: The Distant Hours is hanging somewhere in between being on the shelf and in between. I was hooked on this book though. There is something about Morton's plot, characters and language that I just can't get enough of. For those who have read the other two of Morton's book: this is not as predictable as The Forgotten Garden, and is more complex and strange than The Shifting Fog (also published as The House at Riverton).

Reading Recommendations:To be consumed in one sitting in the company of a cup of tea/ coffee/ your hot drink of choice, a blanket and fire (although I guess it's summer for those of you in the northern hemisphere...)


Favorite excerpts: 'A twinge at the edge of her lips and she continued, the soft, slow lilt of recitation: "Ancient walls that sing the distant hours." '

What I'm reading next:Still with Everything Is Illuminated.