Edie is a book publisher and is curious when her mother receives a long lost letter, originally posted in 1941 from Milderhurst Castle. Her mother is secretive about her past, but Edie soon finds out she was billeted at the castle for a short time during the war.
Edie is inexplicably drawn to the castle and meets the three elderly Blythe sisters without revealing her mother's connection. Twins Percy and Saffy live together with their younger sister Juniper in the slowly decaying castle. The reasons they each chose to stay at the castle after the war and why they never married or had children have been deeply buried in the past.
As Edie tries to peel back the layers of the past, the reader is whisked back to 1940s war time and thrust into the lives of the Blythe sisters. We find that each of the sisters have their own dreams and aspirations and we discover what transpired to bond the sisters together for life.
I reveled in the fact that the characters loved to read, write and tell stories, and all shared a love of books. The reference to the library in the castle made me weak at the knees, as did the news of what happened there for that matter! There is even reference to a children's book written by one of the characters called The True History of the Mud Man, which becomes pivotal to the story.
The pages are rich with the sense of unravelling mysteries and long kept secrets, and Milderhurst Castle itself is a haunting and gothic presence for each of the characters. These themes can also be found in her other novels, The Forgotten Garden and The Shifting Fog, and is the main reason Kate Morton is my favourite Australian author.
In her own words, Kate says:
"This novel brings together many of my favourite things. A crumbling castle, a family of sisters, a love of books and reading, the haunting of the present by the past, thwarted love, ghostly shivers, mystery and memory and secrets".
This pretty much sums up everything I love about her books, and this one is no exception. As long as these are the themes she likes to explore, I'll continue to enjoy exploring them with her as the reader.
I highly recommend this book and it's going to be a hard one to beat in 2011.
My rating = *****