About a year ago, I read Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden. I believe it was part of an online book club through the Spokane Public Library that I’d optimistically signed up for, under the naïve impression that I both had time to read and would be able to find books I liked at Spokane’s many but sadly stocked library branches. TFG was a rare winner—and walks the fine line between literary fiction and the historical romances that I’ve already admitted to having a weakness for. So I decided to give Kate Morton another go with The Distant Hours.
Edie, a young British woman in the publishing industry (!!), suddenly finds her suppressed love of the Gothic thrust into the light as she journeys to Milderhurst Castle in pursuit of a family secret. In the castle live the three ancient Blythe sisters: twins Percy and Saffy and the younger Juniper, who hasn’t been quite right since her fiancé disappeared sixty years ago. They’re the three daughters of writer Raymond Blythe, who achieved literary fame with The History of the Mud Man, an eerily fascinating and mysterious children’s book that changed Edie’s life. According to the book jacket, “the truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past [at Milderhurst Castle] has been waiting a long time for someone to find it”—and Edie is that someone.
TDH is definitely Kate Morton. She’s got a certain tragic bent to her storytelling: she loves lost suitors, orphans, and family histories obscured by generations of lies and secrets. All in all, though, I found TDH less compelling than TFG. Both are mysteries, histories, and romances—but in TFG, all these components (especially the mystery) were right at the forefront, keeping the pages turning. In TDH, the juicy bits are strung out along lengthy interludes with minor characters I didn’t care too much about, descriptions of scenery, and similar red herrings.
So all in all—a good read, but not a great one. I’d recommend it to anyone who was intrigued by my summary above—but I’d recommend The Forgotten Garden more.