I have a strong attraction to castles--in the abstract, anyway, though I'm sure I wouldn't be so enamored with trying to keep one afloat unless I had the resources for a huge staff and plenty of modernization--which caused the cover of Kate Morton's The Distant Hours (2010) to call out to me.
A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WW II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.
Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.
In much the way of Tara in Gone with the Wind, Milderhurst Castle plays a deep role in the lives of those to the manor born (or brought). And, just as with GWTW, there is much in these pages involving the ways we hurt those we love while trying to protect them, the sacrifices we make when we think they're in the interest of those we love, and the very real pain of various kinds of love, especially love denied.
The book was a little slow to get started, and more than a little wordy in writing style, but worth the wait as the stories of the characters eventually unfolded in interesting ways. Told in alternating voices, and in 1992 and 1941, truth is slippery, and perspective is everything.
Overall, I appreciated Edie's journey to understand the mother to whom she had never felt close, and I loved the three sisters almost as much as I felt sad for them. Maybe that's because I'm also one of three sisters.
My overall personal rating of The Distant Hours is a B.