The Distant Hours
By Kate Morton
Completed November 8, 2011
Kate Morton has carved a niche for herself as writer of Gothic fiction. Her first two books, The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden, were mesmerizing and captivating. Her third book, The Distant Hours, employed the Gothic tradition; however, Morton’s third effort lacked the charm and power of its predecessors.
The Distant Hours is about three sisters who live in Milderhurst Castle in Kent. They are the daughters of a famous British author whose book, The True History of the Mud Man, was a beloved classic. During World War II, the sisters accepted a young London refugee, Meredith, who blossomed under the sisters’ care. Fast forward to 1992, and we meet Meredith and her daughter, Edie, who is curious about her mother’s past. Edie finds her way to Milderhurst Castle, meets the sisters and gets tangled up in their past lives.
Like Possession, a faux piece of literature is at the center of the story, and like many Gothic books, The Distant Hours has a cast of mysterious characters, including an old house that’s a character of its own. The story sways back and forth from World War II to 1992. Admittedly, I found the older installments more interesting than the modern ones. Truthfully, I was bored by most of Edie’s narratives. Thankfully, the action picked up when Morton took us to the past, steadily revealing secrets and answers.
The Distant Hours has the right ingredients for a great Gothic read, but I think the story was overdone. Sections of the book plodded on – almost endlessly – and I nearly abandoned the book twice. The ending was gratifying, though, and I am glad I stuck with it. The sisters, especially Percy, were fascinating. Perhaps I would have liked the book better if the story only focused on them.
If you haven’t read anything by Kate Morton, I would advise starting with her first two books. The Distant Hours is an above average read and not the best work Morton has to offer. Nonetheless, I look forward to her future works. She’s an amazing writer.