Archive for August, 2011

Quick Outline

The 15th of July, 1988: that first significant day marks the spot. The spot in two people’s lives, revisited yearly by the reader. Significant because it is the day after graduation, when life rolls ahead, mysterious, exciting, unknown. Significant because it is a day of meeting, the opening bracket of Emma and Dexter. Significant because part of living, of being alive, means we live our days blindly, one day refuses to be significant until the aftermath of what it has prompted. We do not know at what point the bracket will close the sentence, at what point any of it will make any sense at all. And so only when the bracket closes at the end of the novel do we realise what weight that one day held.

This is what I love so much about One Day. It is more than just fiddly plot; relationships, love, career, holidays, highs and lows, dreams and regret. Plot allows philosophy, without actually saying anything philosophical: a terrifying (if you allow your mind to wander there) objective response to our lives and the way they happen, without us knowing or even deciding. Nicholls quotes Dickens beautifully before opening the first chapter and makes this point better than I ever could:

‘But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it and think how different its course would have been. Pause, you who read this, and think for a long moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on that memorable day.’    Dickens, Great Expectations

And so we follow Emma and Dexter until the closing bracket shuts the story tight on them. We regret, we understand, we hate, all the while seeing in their lives our own reflected back. The plot travels fast, of course, when a day of each year takes only a few pages to read. With this speed comes that awful feeling you get when reading a book you love, the nasty feeling that you’re reading to fast and soon it will all be over. And there, cleverly, One Day enforces what all old people say constantly, that idea young people have yet to fully understand: how quickly life slips away from us. How fast the years fly by. Hence, it is a book which makes you stop, and think, even if it’s just for a second after reading, about the fragility and loveliness of life.

A Picture Portrait

The 90’s club scene: Dexter, working as a TV presenter falls into drugs, and becomes a figure of public distaste. His Mother, suffering from terminal cancer, is ashamed of his career and the pair struggle to get on during the significant closing stages of her life. His lifestyle slowly destroys his relationships, the seedy side of London soaking him into its party army. Though this part of the tale is sad and cringeworthy, it manages to be painfully funny at times too. The terrible oxymoron Dexter’s life becomes.

Edinburgh: The place where the pair meet, standing at an idealistic distance away from their modern life. A place where dreaming was encouraged, and, especially for Emma, anything was possible. A time that they look back upon, where a solid idea of who and what they used to be exists, standing tall for them to refer. At times they look back and regret the change, at other times are able to feel glad for it.


My Favourite Review…

Here is an extract from my favourite review, which is written by Leisl Schillinger for The New York Times. The rest of it can be read here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/books/review/Schillinger-t.html

‘Those of us susceptible to nostalgic reveries of youthful heartache and self-invention (which is to say, all of us) longed to get our hands on Nicholls’s new novel, once our friend revealed its premise:

In 1988, the day after commencement, two college graduates briefly, romantically collide. The girl has pined for the boy for years; the boy is more aware of the girl than he lets on. She’s an earnest, outspoken lefty, he a handsome, apolitical toff who “liked the word ‘bourgeois’ and all that it implied” and “wanted to live life in such a way that if a photograph were taken at random, it would be a cool photograph.” Their chemistry is as inarguable as their differences, but because of the pride, carelessness and misplaced optimism of youth, they let time and distraction separate them. Yet they never lose track of each other. “One Day” checks in on their intersecting lives once a year, every July 15, from 1988 through 2007.’


The ending is fairly depressing, but I can’t hate Nicholls for it because things like that happen, are realistic, true to life. However, it wasn’t necessarily the right way for the novel to go, and leaves the reader with a lasting impression of the fickle ability human beings have to recover from loss. An endurance which throws into question our changeable nature, whether our type of love is really able to last through anything and everything. Luckily for Nicholls, I don’t mind being left with these depressing kind of thoughts and usually prefer blighted endings to happy, run-over-the-hills-screaming-happily ones. (Be warned: you can’t stop reading this book….I was so tired because I didn’t properly sleep untill it was finished.)



5/5 Stars


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Quick Outline

Cut grass, log fires, candle wax, pine, the must of ancient rooms and cold stone. If you could open a book and smell its story, this is what I’d imagine The Distant Hours would waft in our direction. Quintessentially Englishy smells. The sort of smells that should be taped to a picture postcard. Away from Milderhurst Castle the book smells of hustling-bustling London, pavements, rain on tarmac, petrol fumes, and the bleachy smell of over-efficient middle-class cleaning. Kate Morton creates an England which we recognize affectionately, relate to. An England, pre and post World War II, rural and urban, that we can be contained in, that we nurse and feel completely at home inside. A picture, so well drawn it leaves me unsure; is it this beautiful illustration of our country or the story itself which renders the tale a success?

The three sisters Blythe live together in crumbling Milderhurst castle. Oldest twin Percy, protectively, valiantly, guarding her sisters and their home. Whilst the stones crumble and the rooms are lost to dust, the three sisters, now symbols for the castle (old and decrepit, youngest Juniper decayed in mind) hang blindly onto the secrets which have bound and, simultaneously, parted them for the majority of their lives.

Untill the day that Edie Burchill stumbles across their story. Discovering that her Mother had been evacuated to the sisters’ castle during the war, Edie probes for information. But her mother, mute on the subject of her past, refuses to provide enlightenment. And so the tale stretches on, shifting between Edie and her curiosity, and the past lives of the sisters Blythe; sisters thoughtlessly, selfishly influenced and manipulated by a curious, guilt-ridden Father.

And eventually, Edie is pulled into their tale. Playing her own part in unburdening the older women, unravelling the knots that weigh heavy upon their past. Norton keeps the reader guessing until the very end. Secrets cause the reader to become greedy, as obsessed with the dark past as Edie herself.

A Picture Portrait

Milderhurst Castle: The ancient purpose of a castle as a fort, a protective space, an ancient shield against oncoming battle, providing view and defence, is reopened and explored by the sisters. These terms of warfare are converted now into the inter-personal world of the Blythe family. Generation after generation swells with madness and suicide. Those stories, never forgotten, are locked permanently within the walls; walls which whisper of those Distant Hours. This history, stained upon the walls, is protected and renewed, inflicted upon future generations by the castle itself. The sisters cannot leave because of actions taken by their Father, and so their lives, their future, their history, is shielded and defended from the sanity of intrusion. The castle guarding what it has only ever known.

Writing: Words spill and scatter, the characters’ lives snagged and hitched by their weight. A novel written by the Blythe sisters’ father, which achieves great acclaim and classic stature, haunts him untill his death. The daughters inherit his gift with words, words and stories ever haunted by his presence. Letters, documents, books, haunt Edie and the Blythes. They use them to escape, to dream, to love, to remember. But the words are hard, constantly reminding them of the things they cannot change; past mysteries are recalled and huge gaping holes are reopened. Torn by a few, hurriedly scratched lines, thoughtlessly written years before.


My Favourite Review…

Found on: http://babbleandbooks.wordpress.com

Beautifully written The Distant Hours will keep readers entranced, I was compelled to keep reading until I knew how the story ended. Kate Morton has written a gripping novel that’s is simply unputdownable. I stayed up late reading this until its stunning and surprising conclusion.

Kate Morton is a master of language, her lyrical flowing verse was so stunning it captured my imagination completely. This is a book that uses language richly. It draws you in to the very last page. The perfect mix of romance, intrigue mystery and suspense. The Distant Hours is utterly absorbing reading. If you like the language of the classics with a modern twist this book is definitely for you. A brilliant slightly gothic tale that is infinitely readable.

Kate Morton has proved yet again that she is a brilliant and talented writer who only gets better with each new book she writes. After I finished The Distant Hours I immediately started reading The Shifting Fog, which is Kate Morton’s first novel and it was a brilliant story as well. Everyone who reads Kate Morton will enjoy the journey.


Not always moving quite quickly enough, The Distant Hours is one of those books where the number of pages doesn’t adequately represent the length of tale…if that makes sense. Apart from that it’s lovely and well worth a summer read. Real Englishy, nostalgia-ridden writing.



3.5/5 Stars

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