It started with a letter. A letter that had been lost a long time, waiting out half a century in a forgotten postal bag in the dim attic of a nondescript house in Bermondsey.
When a long lost letter is delivered to her mother, Meredith, one Sunday afternoon, Edie Burchill knows there is a mystery behind it – but it is some time before she realises just how deep the mystery is. The letter, lost for fifty years, is from Juniper Blythe, who had billeted Meredith during the war. The delay in its delivery is the result of a misplaced sack of mail, but those lost years have had ramifications for Meredith, her daughter Edie, and for its sender, Juniper.
Edie sets out to unravel the events of fifty years ago, visiting Mildehurst Castle, the home of the now elderly Juniper and her older sisters, who have lived together all their lives, and who shelter much history. It was also the home of their father, Raymond Blythe, author of a classic children’s book The True History of the Mud Man , the very book which has inspired Edie’s love of literature. On her visits to the castle, and back in London, Edie slowly peels back the layers of the various mysteries surrounding the Blythe sisters and her own mother.
Part gothic tale, part mystery, this beautiful woven tale meanders through the lives of the various women, with the reader guessing – often incorrectly – at the answers to the mysteries and the secrets which will be revealed. Moving between 1992 and 1941, the narrative draws the reader into both sets of events, keeping the pages turning and the mind guessing right to the conclusion. Not a feel-good book, but a finely rendered one.
The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton
Allen & Unwin, 2010
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