This book review will be nothing more than mulch I’m afraid (is it because of the bank holidays that slow everything down here, a post-election syndrome or that little bit of Bordeaux over lunch?). Anyway, my opinion of this book is somewhere between “ahem” and “meh”. So let’s get it over with.
“Ahem” because it came after a (rather long) string of unfortunate choices at the library, careless or poor timing on my behalf. I took this one because I’d enjoyed The House in Riverton as a kind of upstairs-downstairs holiday read, on the longish side but still quite fun.
But this one never managed to convince me. Cardboard characters, improbable twists and turns, a dragging conclusion that connects every single dot, oh please. Suspension of disbelief, I agree to some extent, but I can’t be suspended that high into the void for 600 pages without developing a severe case of vertigo, or rather headache.
The Distant Hours moves back and forth between a contemporary plot and the gradual discovery of a family secret dating back to the second Word War, when Meredith Burchill was a young evacuee at Middlehurst Castle. This trick of construction is becoming rather a cliché, don’t you think? Edith, the contemporary narrator and Meredith’ daughter, soon grated on my nerves and I really looked forward to the return of the 1941 plotline. But Meredith hardly made sense between her childhood self and her mature self. Throw a Gothic castle and three odd spinster sisters into the mix and I’m going to be sick. Meh.
Perhaps another glass of Bordeaux might help?