Sure, there are some advantages to having a Book Club of one member (me!). There is no one to dispute my book selections (not another book about dogs!), we never differ in opinion (I’m always right!), and I laugh at all my own jokes (hilarious!). However, my last three book selections left me longing for another Book Club member. Who can I rave to about Kate Morton? My patient and loving husband, of course!
Brett kindly listened to my enthusiastic summaries of Ms. Morton’s books, asked poignant questions about the plots, and respectfully ignored my unconscious audible, “oooh!”… “wow!”… “no way!” To let Brett off the hook, now it’s your turn to hear about Kate Morton!
Ms. Morton was born in 1976 in Australia. She currently lives with her husband and two young sons in Brisbane. She received a degree in English Literature and a Masters degree in Victorian Literature from the University of Queensland. She also studied gothic and mystery fiction as a PhD student. Ms. Morton has published three novels, The House at Riverton (2006), The Forgotten Garden (2008), and The Distant Hours (2010). The three novels are non-sequential and unrelated in plot.
Categorically, the novels share various commonalities. The books are organized into chapters with the narrator describing events in third person from the perspective of a main character. The chapters alternate between early 20th century and early 21st century narrators describing contemporaneous events. The plots revolve around lavish castles in England and the families that inhabited the castles for 300 years. Family secrets, mystery, plot twists, architecture, and history.
Ms. Morton crafts approximately one male character per novel. However, the great majority of her attention is paid to the development of the female characters. Each character is richly described with complexity and diversity in opinion, social stature, education, and economy. For example:
Grace Bradley (The House at Riverton): Grace is a 98 year old woman, who has been asked to participate in the production of a movie based on real events that occurred at Riverton. Grace narrates her experiences as a maid at Riverton in the 1920’s. She layers the facts that ultimately contributed to the sensational death of a famous poet during a high profile party at Riverton.
Cassandra (The Forgotten Garden): Cassandra’s grandmother raised her. Together they shared a home, an antique business, and personal tragedy. The grandmother did not share that her own origins were a mystery. Cassandra learned that her grandmother was abandoned on the docks in Australia at the age of three. Cassandra’s investigating leads her to a castle in England with a forgotten garden that is shrouded in family mystery and personal tragedy.
Edie Burchill (The Distant Hours): Edie is a 20-something, who acknowledges the tension between her and her mother. When the Post Office delivers a letter long-forgotten letter forty years after it was postmarked, Edie begins investigating her mother’s mysterious past. The investigation unveils a young girl evacuated from London during WWII to a castle in the country. Edie is determined to discover the events of 1941 that drove the castle’s residents into madness and solitude.
My entire Book Club (me) agrees that the greatest tragedy of these novels is that Ms. Morton has only written three. Until she publishes another delicacy, I shall return to my Prince Charming in our little castle Under the Old Walnut Tree.