Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

562 pages
Published November 2010
Atria Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
New York, NY

I was very excited when I learned last autumn that Australian author Kate Morton had a new novel that would be released in November. I had plans to read and review it while still hot off the presses so I got my hands on a copy as quickly as possible and started reading... But then life happened. When it came time to review the novel I ran out of time.

So here I am, months later and very excited to finally sit down and put my thoughts here. So for any of you who are fans of Gothic fiction, or for those of you who have heard of Kate Morton and are still curious about her latest offering, The Distant Hours, let me enlighten you.

First, in her own words:

The Plot:

My Thoughts:
As I sat down to write my review of The Distant Hours I once again found myself torn by how I truly felt about the story. As was the case with both of Morton's earlier novels, The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden I both loved and disliked this novel. When I stopped to reflect on what made me feel this way it always came back to the very same reasons I both loved and disliked her earlier books. What reasons? Well, for starters let me explain what I love.

I just love Kate Morton’s writing style. Other readers may consider her writing too descriptive or wordy, but I do not agree. I find the story plots clever and unique and her writing creates vivid scenes that leap off the pages and pull me into the story. There is a richness to each novel that keeps my attention riveted to the very last page. I MUST read to the end to learn the answers to all my questions and to know the outcome for each character within the story. I love a book that can make feel this way while I read.

So what did I dislike? The most obvious objection I had was with the wicked behavior of certain characters. But beyond that I also found that I didn't like the dark and depressing shadow that draped the entire story. At first I thought it was just Kate Morton's modern take that made the book so dark, but the more I think about Gothic novels in general I realize it coincides with the "horror" aspect of the Gothic novel and this is what I truly dislike no matter the era in which the story was written. Not to say there is the same type of "horror" that you would find in a slasher movie, because there isn't. What I mean is that the dark and disturbing aspects of the book and the hopelessness of some characters makes the story a bit of a downer. As I read I wait for the moment when the "wicked" are punished and the "good" finally get to live happily-ever-after in peace, but the more I think about it I realize that such an ending doesn't often exist within the Gothic genre.

For example, consider the following novels: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, or even the more recent Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. All of these novels are tales that weave romance with tragedy and horror and very few of them end on any note of happiness. And yet they all have two things in common: there is the thrill of the read and there is always a lesson or principle to ponder, even after the saddest of endings.

I suppose if I stop to consider The Distant Hours in light of these facts I find it less disappointing. Still, I keep hoping that one day I'll read a novel by Kate Morton that will be just as thrilling, but will have a much happier ending.

Overall, my emotions aside I found The Distant Hours to be well written, well plotted, and an excellent read. ~

Related links:
Kate Morton (Official website)
Simon & Schuster: Kate Morton's Official Page
Simon & Schuster: The Distant Hours
Kate Morton - Video about The Distant Hours


Cozy in Texas said...

Thanks for the review. I didn't realize she was from Australia.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should write this now, as I've just begun "The House at Riverton." And I already read "The Forgotten Garden" earlier this year. I really loved "The Forgotten Garden." I do adore a good Gothic. THose classic gothics you mentioned are among my favorites. Although you're right, in "The Forgotten Garden the ending definitely wasn't a happy one and it seemed like evil pretty much won.

Sarah M. said...

Dancingbythelight - you will enjoy The House at Riverton if you liked The Forgotten Garden. You know, the more I learn about Kate Morton the more it makes sense that she writes as she does. She listed her favorite books and movies on her FAQ section of her website and her writing style/moods seem to match her favorites. (i.e. Atonement, Brideshead Revisited, The Great Gatsby, Rebecca, Remains of the Day)

Anonymous said...

I don't know what it says about me that I like Gothic novels so much. No doubt a therapist could have a field day, ha ha! I'll check that link out. :)