Friday, December 30, 2011

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

This is the latest offering by Brisbane based novelist Kate Morton.  It is the first of hers I have read and I do regret that I did not like it more.  The reason I regret not liking it more than I did, is because she is a best selling novelist from the city I grew up in, and when I see her interviewed she seems so thoughtful and likeable.  Basically, I think I should have read one of her earlier books, and now, alas, after having waded through the more than 550 pages of The Distant Hours, I can't see myself picking up another any time soon.

From the book jacket:

It starts with a letter, lost for half a century and unexpectedly delivered to Edie's mother on a Sunday afternoon.  The letter leads Edie to Milderhurst Castle, where the eccentric Blythe sisters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted during WWII.  The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives caring for their younger sister, Juniper, who hasn't been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

You know,  Morton does write well, there is plenty of lovely original descriptive prose throughout the novel.  She creates a good sense of place in the woods surrounding the castle.  More so than in the castle itself, where the idea of the whispering walls struck me as a bit silly, or at least overly romantic.  The story also contains some really good elements.  It has interesting ingredients, a modern and WWII setting.  To be honest, I think I have read too many books lately using the sort of narrative device where the reader is jumping from the modern era back to an earlier mystery.  At least I didn't enjoy how it was executed in this novel.  There were too many jumps and I just felt exhausted with it.   In the end it was just too long in my view.  The characters did not engage me to the degree that I needed to sustain my interest for that many pages.  I think the idea might have been that the castle itself is one of the main characters.  It just didn't hang together that well for me, and parts of the plotting were overblown or predictable.

I could see why some readers would really enjoy this novel.  If you like expansive, languid and descriptive prose, with some intriguing historically romantic themes, then you may enjoy this.

Also, don't forget to enter my  New Year Book Giveaway and a very happy New Year to you!