Tag Archives: Kate Morton

The Distant Hours

By Kate Morton

Published by Washington Square Press

Copyright © 2010

 

“The Distant Hours” is not only a great title for this book, but for all of Morton’s work. She excels at haunting her pages with imagined lives and visions from England’s Victorian and post-Victorian past. In reading this story you’ll find out what the distant hours are, and you’ll begin to see how relevant it is Morton’s writing.

 

Edie Burchill has always felt a bit disconnected from her parents and from her extended family. Her parents seem the practical sort and her mom’s family is the brash and crude sort with a chip on their shoulder for any who they perceive to look down their noses at them. Edie; however, is bookish and a bit of a dreamer. She longs to be closer to her family, especially her mother, but their differences make it hard to cross the chasm.

 

When Edie’s mother receives a letter that had been lost in the post for decades, and she sees her mother’s dramatic reaction to its contents, she must know more. And even though her mother stonewalls her at every turn, Edie slowly uncovers her mother’s past which includes her rocky relationship with her family and her days as a child evacuee from London during World War II when she spent a glorious year in the English countryside at Middlehurst Castle with the Blythe family. So in addition to uncovering her mother’s history she also unravels the secrets that waft in the air and seep from the stones of Middlehurst Castle. Edie learns of the personal heartaches of the twins, Percy and Saffy, and of their little sister Juniper Blythe. She is eventually entrusted with two horrible secrets that have their roots deeply entrenched in Edie’s favorite book “The True History of the Mud Man,” which just so happened to be written by the Blythe sisters’ father, Raymond.

 

As I’ve mentioned in a previous review, I absolutely love Kate Morton’s writing! The way she descriptively creates a setting and a mood is just phenomenal. And her acumen with character development keeps the story riveting. Her characters motivations and secrets are never presented entirely upfront; she slowly feeds you what you need to know about a character until you have a much more complex person that what you started with. In this story Percy and Saffy Blythe, the twins, are perfect examples of this. They are each initially described as the opposite side of the same coin; one the picture of strength and purpose and the other weak and motherly; however, by the end of the story these notions are nearly turned on their side.

 

Having read “The Forgotten Garden” and now “The Distant Hours,” I’ve really begun to hone in on Mortons’ forte as a mystery writer. She excels at writing the decades and even centuries old imagined cold-case. She knows how to dig from the present to the past, how to make family research look exciting. While she is not the first to write these types of stories it works now more than ever as people are becoming more and more interested in the uncovering of family history. The interest is not just in one’s own family history, but the histories of famous people and of complete strangers.

 

If I had any criticism at all, it might be that on rare occasions what is presented in a flashback chapter might be just as interesting if discovered in the present. This of course may take a little from the character development that I gushed about earlier. To be completely honest though, “The Distant Hours” was just so thoroughly engrossing that few negative thoughts popped into my head.  If you have yet to read a Kate Morton book then “The Distant Hours” is a great place to start.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Drama, Europe, Family, Historical, Murder, Mystery, Psychological, Romance, War, Writers

The Forgotten Garden

By Kate Morton

Published by Washington Square Press

Copyright © 2008

A genealogical mystery spanning nearly 100 years and 2 continents, “The Forgotten Garden” captivates the senses and the imagination.

Cassandra lived with her grandmother Nell in Brisbane, Australia, until recently when her grandmother died. Nell left Cassandra their home and the antiques business that they worked in together. In addition she left a somewhat perceptible secret which had implications to a mystery that Nell was trying to solve.

It was always a little odd how different Nell was from her sisters and the rest of her family, but Cassandra didn’t think much of it until after Nell’s death when her great aunts tell her that Nell had known for quite awhile now that she was not a blood relative. By way of a little white suitcase that Nell received after her father’s death and the diary that Nell kept of her own identity search thereafter, Cassandra begins to piece together the clues of Nell’s family history. This mystery will take her to London and then to a cottage and garden on the Cornish Coast where she will find links in her family history that she could not imagine. Through this journey of discovery through her ancestor’s tragic lives she will slowly begin to cope with her own tragic history and begin to move beyond it.

Kate Morton has written a riveting mystery riddled with loss and loneliness that ultimately ends in truth and contentment. This novel shifts back and forth between three main characters that lived decades apart. At the beginning of each chapter Morton clearly tells us what place and time period you are reading from so the book is in no way confusing. You would think that skipping between time periods might slow the book down; however, it provides the necessary history for the reader to see where Cassandra is headed or where she has been.

In addition, Morton’s characters in this book are often gloomy and burdened with secrets, and yet for a few of them she draws them towards the light making us take pleasure in their company. She also paints a moody yet beautiful picture of the Cornish Coast which is made all the more so when contrasted with the glaring sun and oppressive heat of Australia. She makes me want my own cottage on the Cornish Coast. “The Forgotten Garden” is a spellbinding novel with a surprising yet fitting climax that I highly recommend.

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Filed under Family, Mystery, Romance, Strong Sense of Place