The Distant Hours
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 spinsters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted during World War II. 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 fiancé jilted her in 1941. Inside the decaying castle, Edie searches for her mother’s past but soon learns there are other secrets hidden in its walls. The truth of what happened in “the distant hours” has been waiting a long time for someone to find it. In this enthralling romantic thriller, Morton pays homage to the classics of gothic fiction, spinning a rich and intricate web of mystery, suspense, and lost love.
Read an Excerpt
The trees can. They are the first to know that he is coming.
Listen! The trees of the deep, dark wood, shivering and jittering their leaves like papery hulls of beaten silver; the sly wind, snaking through their tops, whispering that soon it will begin.
The trees know, for they are old and they have seen it all before.
It is moonless.
It is moonless when the Mud Man comes. The night has slipped on a pair of fine, leather gloves, shaken a black sheet across the land: a ruse, a disguise, a sleeping spell, so that... see more
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. I think about it sometimes, that mailbag: of the hundreds of love letters, grocery bills, birthday cards, notes from children to their parents, that lay together, swelling and sighing as their thwarted messages whispered in the dark. Waiting, waiting, for someone to realize they were there. For it is said, you know, that a letter will always seek a reader; that sooner or later, like it or not, words have a way of... see more
Reading Group Guide
A long-lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a grand but moldering old place in the English countryside. Once home to Edie’s mother fifty years before during World War II, the only current residents are the elderly Blythe sisters—Persephone (Percy), Seraphina (Saffy), and Juniper. Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s story—uncovering secrets hidden in the stones and discovering the long-awaited truth of what really happened in “the distant hours” of the past.
TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. The novel opens with the prologue from Raymond Blythe’s fictional, famous work, The True History of the Mud Man. He writes: “The moat has begun to breathe. Deep, deep, mired in the mud, the buried man’s heart kicks wetly…the Mud Man opens an eye. Sharp, sudden, tracks it back and forth.” (p. 3) Did you think that the Mud Man was a human being, a monster, or something else? Why did the author ch see more