Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives 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 Millderhurst Castle with the Blythe family.
Fifty years later, Edie too is drawn to Milderhurst and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé 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 . . .
I've been raving about this book for months and I was SO excited when I finally got my copy! Reading it was such a treat and it was pretty much everything I've hoped for, having really really enjoyed her previous two books, The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden.
Unlike the first two books, which mostly alternate between the early 1900s and the present days, the historical part of this novel takes place during World War II and the present day narration is set in 1992, which is when our heroine Edie's mother receives a letter (from 1941) that changes everything. The letter itself is nothing special, but with its arrival Edie learns that her mother Meredith was evacuated during WWII and spent a short period of time living at the Milderhurst Castle ...
Soon after that, Edie finds herself in the Milderhurst village and books a tour of the castle, where she meets the three Blythe sisters that her mother used to know and who still live there: the twins Persephone and Seraphina and their younger sister Juniper (also knows as Percy, Saffy and June respecitvely). Neither of them ever married and the twins are now caring for Juniper, who has supposedly lost her mind on 29 October 1941 when her fiancé never showed up for dinner and she's still stuck in a time loop, convinced he will arrive after all.
At the centre of the novel is the now crumbling but once magnificent Milderhurst Castle and its residents, the Blythe family, who have had their fair share of tragedy. The father of the Blythe Sisters, Raymond Blythe, has tragically lost both his wives so he mostly had to take care of his daughters himself. He was also the famous author of The True History of the Mud Man, a children's classic novel, which plays a very important role in the novel as well; as one of the characters says, this story begins and ends with the Mud Man - and oh yes, does it ever ... Gosh, I so wish that story actually existed because I really want to read the whole thing now, not just the prologue that's featured at the beginning of the book.
Although Edie was the narrator, I felt she was more the side character and that the Sisters Blythe took over the central stage, which I quite liked actually. I enjoyed reading about their growing up in the castle and it made me sad how none of them ever realized their ambitions and how they remained tied to the castle. The book is divided into five parts and there are several cliffhangers. I raced through it to see what actually happened on that fateful stormy night of 29 October 1941 - and whoa, talk about twists and turns!
The novel is masterfully crafted, but that should come as no surprise if you've read Morton's previous two books, and her latest accomplishment just proves what an outstanding storyteller she is! Granted that this book is massive (nearly 700 pages!) and a bit slow at times, BUT Ms Morton's amazing writing style makes every single page an absolute delight to read. She creates a world that is so detailed and so well presented that it completely sucks you in and I loved getting lost in it.
If you love a good and well written story with secrets and a fair bit of mystery (including a literary one) and a fantastic set of characters, then this is the book for you. If you've read Ms Morton's books before, then I can assure you that you will not be disappointed by her latest offering. And if you're not familiar with this author yet, then I urge you to give her books a try. This book was well worth the wait and I'm really excited about Morton's future's novel - I do hope she's working on one already!
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 4/5
ps: Watch the video below to learn more about the book.