Last week I read “The Distant Hours” by Kate Morton. It is the first of her novels that I read and I will be going back for more!
The story weaves itself around events at Milderhurst Castle in 1941 and the impact that they continue to have in the present, 1992.
Edie Burchill’s mother, Meredith, was sent to live at Milderhurst when the blitz began in London. It was a time when many frightened parents sent their children to live with strangers in the English countryside to keep them safe from the nightly bombings in London.
Young Meredith ends up with the Blythe sisters, Percy, Saffy and Juniper. They are all wildly eccentric after having been raised mainly by their father, a famous author, Raymond Blythe who was slipping into madness. There is a history of mental illness and tragedy surrounding the family.
Edie first learns of this when her mother receives a letter in the mail that had been lost since 1941. Her mother’s emotional reaction to the contents of the letter and the revelation of her mother’s time at the castle leave Edie burning with questions.
She unexpectedly finds herself near Milderhurst Castle and so begins her search to unveil the mysteries of what happened to her mother back then. She meets the Sisters Blythe and discovers the youngest, Juniper, has slipped into a madness all her own. The trigger for her madness was the disappearance of her loved one back in 1941. Mysteries and secrets abound.
Morton adeptly transports the reader back and forth between past and present from the viewpoints of the various players in the mystery. She builds tension with the different clues revealed by each characters experiences. The characters are richly drawn and believable. Each chapter compels you on to the next. A definite must read!