Kate Morton

Morton is a compelling author, a little cumbersome at times, but she’ll keep you enthralled until the end. Described as gothic in style, each of her three novels unravels the facets of a mysterious event whilst delving into the lives and secrets of the characters involved.

The House at Riverton, Morton’s first novel, retells the life of Grace Bradley, a 98 year-old woman reliving her past. At the age of 14 she enters into service for the Hartford family, proving herself a steadfast and loyal maid. She and Hannah Hartford develop a relationship of sorts that is sustained over the years: a bond born of a secret. As the story unfolds, we learn of other secrets, the greatest of which is saved until the end. This secret uncovers the truth concerning the death of a young poet on the Riverton estate: details known only by Grace, Hannah and Hannah’s sister Emmeline. What guilt has Grace carried with her throughout her life? She makes the decision to reveal everything to her grandson through an audio memoir of her life.

Morton’s second novel, The Forgotten Garden, is a multi-generational story about Nell, now an elderly woman, who discovers that her parents are not really her parents, and that she was an abandoned child. The only remaining link to her past is a white suitcase containing some clothes and a book of fairy tales by author Eliza Makepeace. Nell embarks on a journey that leads her from Australia to England, but fails to discover the full details of her history. Cassandra, Nell’s granddaughter, picks up the search after Nell’s death and through her retelling of events along with Nell’s and Eliza’s, we gradually piece together the mysteries of Nell’s ancestry.

The Distant Hours is Morton’s third novel and is another book about secrets and the intertwining, mysterious lives of the characters. Meredith Burchill is a London evacuee during the Blitz, taken in by Juniper Blythe, the youngest of three eccentric spinster sisters living at Milderhurst Castle. They are the daughters of Raymond Blythe, author of The True History of the Mud Man, a children’s classic. Fifty years into the future, Meredith is married and has a daughter called Edie. A long-lost letter arrives for Meredith from Juniper, the contents of which are extremely distressful. Edie, a London book editor has co-incidentally been invited to write an introduction for a reprint of Raymond’s classic story. She makes her way to Milderhurst Castle to interview the sisters and becomes entangled in the slowly unfolding story and secrets of their past. What was it that upset her mother so much when she read Juniper’s letter, and what is the connection between them all?

Many readers find Morton’s novels wieldy, with too much detail, convoluted story-building, and bouncing between characters and time periods. For me, this makes for great reading. So, if you enjoy this style of writing, Morton has another novel due to come out in October, 2012 called, not surprisingly, The Secret Keeper.


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