Friday, November 11, 2011

the Distant Hours by Kate Morton. Historical Fiction Novel Review

Simon & Schuster, Inc. Published 2010.  ISBN 978-1-4391-5278-2; ISBN 978-1-4391-9934-3 (ebook)

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton follows a formula similar to that of her earlier novel, A Forgotten Garden.  Unfortunately, The Distant Hours, did not capture my interest to the same extent.

Edie grows up an avid 19th century Gothic novel reader in a quiet household as an only child after her young brother's death.  Her most treasured novel is "The True History of the Mud Man.

She is not particularly close to her parents, who never recovered from their son's death, but this seems to only bother her in the sense that awkwardness reigns in their relationships.  Edie's long-term relationship with her boyfriend has broken up and she delays telling her parents dreading the "resignation cross Mum's face as she realized the maternal code required her to provide some sort of consolation...".

While at a Sunday dinner at her parents, a "lost" letter arrives for her mother.  It was written 50 years previously by Juniper Blythe, who hosted Edie's mother as a child at her family's home, Milderhurst Castle, during WW II evacuations from London.  Edie's mother is not forthcoming with details about the letter, her evacuation and stay at Milderhurst Castle or, for that matter, pretty much anything regarding her past.

The Gothic novel aficionado has become an editor for a small publishing company.  A prospective client calls and Edie is sent out to meet with him.  As chance has it, she gets lost on the way back to London and happens upon a signpost for Milderhurst. While in the village, she further discovers the author of her beloved "The True History of the Mud Man", Raymond Blythe, was the patriarch of Milderhurst Castle until his death decades earlier.

Unable to resist, she takes a tour of the castle and meets Raymond Blythe's three eccentric spinster daughters who have lived all their lives at Milderhurst.  When she is assigned to interview the Blythe sisters for a commemoration edition of "The True Story of the Mud Man" celebrating its 75th anniversary, Edie has legitimate cause to probe into the Blythe (and her mother's) history.

The Distant Hours is told from different viewpoints throughout the book.  Edie and the three Blythe sisters are the focal character point of views, although other minor characters have cameos.

At 560 pages, I often felt the novel lagged and bogged down.  A condensed version might have presented the same key points without leaving the reader impatient for the novel to move on with the story.

Another aspect lacking in this novel was Edie's emotions.  What emotions she did display and develop almost seemed contrived in order to "qualify" her character as a changed woman.  The golden rule of novels is the hero or heroine must always show that he or she has transformed in some positive way by the finale.

An easy read for those seeking a lengthy novel that doesn't demand a huge investment of recall.

Rating:  *** (Good)

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