Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Distant Hours - Kate Morton (Audio)

Did you know that Kate Morton has got it all going on in the category of creepy? She seems to possess the checklist that one needs to write all things gothic. Spooky mansion. Abandoned nursery. Madness. Spinsters creeping around. Tales from the past involving mysteries, a cold rainy night, and maybe even death. I got a taste of it in The House at Riverton, and so I was on the library waiting list the second I knew this beauty was coming out. My mom listened to it before I did, and she kept teasing me with comments like "I really like this" and "that is not how I thought it was going to end". Gah! So here is a brief summary.

Synopsis: The mystery all started with a long lost letter, mailed in 1941 but not delivered until 1992. When Edie's mother receives the letter, it devastates the normally reserved woman, and Edie longs to know more. Her research takes her to Milderhurst Castle, to where her mother was evacuated and lived during WWII. There live the elderly and eccentric sisters Blythe, Persephone, Seraphina and Juniper, daughters of the famous Raymond Blythe, author of childhood favorite "The True History of the Mud Man".

Through her digging Edie learns of madness, unrequited love, family corruption, lies and secrets, and the story of a heartsick creature who lives in the mud waiting for his love's return. All of which is delivered to you by going back and forth in time, between 1939 and 1992, slowly revealing the truth behind the mystery. Edie must also come to terms with a side of her mother she's never seen, and make peace with the distance that has always been present.

My thoughts: Reading (or listening in this case) to a Kate Morton novel is akin to burrowing down in your comfy sweats on a cold, rainy day and getting lost in an enchanting, creepy universe. So much atmosphere!  If you pay attention closely, you might even feel the chill of a ghost passing by.

One thing about Morton that you need to know is that she makes you work for it. She does not offer her mysteries easily. Instead, she gradually reveals her secrets bit by bit, so don't get anxious. I can promise, though, that it is worth the effort.

Morton is what we like to call in one of my book clubs as "not a lazy writer". This lady digs in deep, to hell with word count, and makes her characters real. She puts her all into every back story, every description, and while this can make her stories feel a little slow, you feel invested when you are through.

Another thing I enjoyed about this story is how Morton throws a bone to all bibliophiles. Edie works for a publisher, and has been obsessed with books, libraries and bookstores since she was a child. Therefore you know this woman. We've all been there, and that familiarity feels comfortable.

A word about the audio production:  The narrator for "The Forgotten Garden" and "The House at Riverton", Caroline Lee, is back again for "The Distant Hours", and I couldn't have been more pleased.  Lee has a lilting, girlish voice with a British accent, and is pleasant to listen to.  She doesn't vary her narration much between characters, but this has never posed a problem for me, and would look forward to hearing her again.

4.5 out of 5 stars


Martha@Hey, I want to read that said...

I loved The Forgotten Garden and I have high hopes for this one. I have the audio book and can't wait to get started. I love books that pay homage to books and readers. I've been worried about starting this one so thanks for your wonderful review.

Alyce said...

I just finished The Forgotten Garden, so I know what you mean about how she makes you work for it. I like that level of detail though, as long as everything is there for a reason it's okay with me if a book is long.

I loved your description of the creeping spinsters! Nothing says "gothic fiction" like spinsters creeping around. :)

Matt said...

She's another author whom I keep saying I want to read, but have yet to do so. I need to start from the beginning, House at Riverton. It's very comforting knowing she's intricate in revealing the mysterious bit. I like wrestle with books like that.