Right before I plunge into an intense writing assignment – such as the upcoming Nanowrimo – I like to empty my head of the thoughts scrambling around, wrestling each other for attention like a group of first graders with their hands above their heads, bottoms squirming in their seats.

The best way to accomplish this, for me, is to delve into another world – someone else’s thoughts and eras.

This time is was The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.

I wasn’t familiar with her work.  I hadn’t read other reviews.  I simply picked it up in a bookstore, read the back blurb offering mystery, suspense, love, secrets, and family drama set in England against two time frames – 1941 and 1992.

A decaying castle, spinster sisters, gothic intrigue.  It felt divine just holding it in my hand.

I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I could barely wait to read the next page and the page after that, and so on.  Her web of suspense is woven so expertly that I couldn’t decide which era I wanted to read about next and was never disappointed when the chapter flipped time periods.  Let me explain.

It begins in 1992 when a lost letter finds its way to Edith Burchill’s mother – Meredith – who opens it in Edie’s presence and then tries to cover up the effect that it has on her.  We soon learn that Edie’s mother had been evacuated to the countryside, along with many of London’s children, during World War II in order for them to escape the bombing and constant disruption and danger.  Milderhurst Castle was where Meredith ended up being taken in – the grand home of a famous, though slightly mad, writer and his three eccentric daughters.

So the novel takes us back and forth between the two time frames.  This is often a concept that irritates me.  One time frame is sometimes more intriguing than the other with most of the mystery happening in one and the figuring it all out occurring in the other.  When this happens, I can barely wait to get back to the time frame with the action and the suspense.  But Kate Morton has layered it into both, and it is a joy to be carried along into the present or the historical past – either offering its share of intrigue.

If you love the beautiful arrangement of words, you will enjoy this as well.  Her writing style is uniquely her own with breathtaking and sensory inducing descriptions of every day occurences such as the striking of a match or the way a wrist might tangle around itself in a nervous grab of a too-tight skirt.

I guess you tell that I enjoyed it immensely and recommend it wholeheartedly.

Kate Morton has made a new fan out of me and suspect that she will with you as well.