Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

In case you can't tell, Kate Morton is one of my new favorite authors, and her new novel The Distant Hours does not disappoint. Alternating between the nineties and World War II-era England, the novel tells the story of Edie, a thirtysomething editor at a small publishing house who's never felt as though she fit into her family. She's just broken up with her long-term boyfriend and can't seem to find a way to tell her parents what's happened, so she ignores it. As she's grappling with this, a lost letter to her mother comes to light, which provokes a violent reaction in her normally unflappable mother's composure, and Edie resolves to find out more. Her quest takes her to the Kentish countryside, where an ancient stone castle called Milderhurst shelters three spinster sisters, the last scions of a pedigreed family, and who also sheltered Edie's mother as a schoolgirl evacuee during the Blitz. Mum won't agree to discuss the matter, so Edie is left on her own to find out why her mother never speaks of her evacuation--what happened to make her try to shut out the past? Edie quickly finds herself caught up in a tale of love, loss, and sorrow as she gets closer to uncovering the answers she seeks.

Morton's style is noticeably different in The Distant Hours, though she has demonstrated a gift for writing in disparate voices for her various narrators in both The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden. Here, however, Edie's voice is rambling and at times distractingly distracted from the point at hand. At first I found it off-putting, but I quickly came to see that Edie's mind really worked that way, and I became more engrossed. Morton kept me guessing until the end with certain questions and their answers--which did not disappoint.

However, I would have liked some more closure or development for Edie on the romance front. The break-up with her boyfriend and her inability to tell her parents for months is presented as a big issue that never gets resolved. A possible romance is hinted at but not explored. Also, a novel within the novel plays a pivotal role, but the text itself only gets a small reveal. I would have very much liked to see more of that meta text.

All in all, a solid read. Better than The Forgotten Garden? I would have to say no. But excellent nonetheless.

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