Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long-lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.
Evacuated from London as a thirteen-year-old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe, and taken to live at Milderhurst Castle with the Blythe family: Juniper, her twin sisters and their father, Raymond, author of the 1918 children’s classic The True History of the Mud Man. In the grand and glorious Milderhurst Castle, a new world opens up for Edie’s mother. She discovers the joys of books and fantasy and writing, but also, ultimately, the dangers.
Fifty years later, as Edie chases the answers to her mother’s riddle, she, too, is drawn to Milderhurst Castle and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiance in 1941 plunged her into madness.
Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother?s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.
Trailer featuring the US edition
A Letter From Kate
I was a third of the way into writing a different story when the Sisters Blythe began whispering in my ear. I tried to ignore them but they were insistent, and eventually I agreed to give them a week. I set aside my other project – temporarily – in the hopes that I’d make the sisters see reason; confident that they would that way be appeased and silenced until it was their turn.
I wrote the first chapter of The Distant Hours, in which the letter arrives and Edie learns the name ‘Juniper Blythe’, in a single night, and by the time I went to bed I knew I wouldn’t be returning to my other project. I couldn’t. It was clear to me that this was the story I had to tell. That happens, sometimes, and I’ve found it’s best not to ask questions, rather just to follow the story’s thread.
The Distant Hours was a labour of love. I wrote intensively, coming up for air occasionally, before disappearing once more beneath the novel’s surface. The characters – Percy and Saffy, Juniper and Tom, Edie and Meredith, and all the others, too – are real and dear to me, and the novel brings together many of my favourite things. A crumbling castle, a family of sisters, a love of books and reading, the haunting of the present by the past, thwarted love, ghostly shivers, mystery and memory and secrets.
No matter how much I adore writing, though, no matter the pleasure my stories give me, it isn’t until books are read that they really start to breathe. So let me take the opportunity to thank you. Because by reading The Distant Hours, it is you who brings the characters, the past, Milderhurst castle itself, back to life. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did.
Kate Morton grew up in the mountains of south-east Queensland. She has degrees in dramatic art and English literature and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Queensland. Kate lives with her husband and young sons in Brisbane. Her first novel, The Shifting Fog, published internationally as The House at Riverton , was a number one bestseller in 2007. The Forgotten Garden, her second novel, was also a bestseller in Australia, the UK, the US and in many European countries. You can find more information about Kate and her books at katemorton.com
About the Contributor
John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French, Korean and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for over twenty-five years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au.