I was clicking around last week when I found an old black and white movie on TCM. Nothing unusual about that, right? But I lingered on this one for a few minutes, sucked in more by the atmosphere than by the dialogue. A young woman was having tea with a much older woman in a large, old Victorian room. The older woman was chastising the younger one about, it seemed, transgressions in the past towards the young woman's sister, complete with flashbacks to a happier time. The tone was moody and nostalgic and somewhat foreboding. You know, I thought to myself, I am in the mood to read a book that strikes just that tone.
I went to the library and, almost unbelievably, found the perfect book. It is The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. I will tell you straight away this is not great literature. But it is a good, solid, entertaining read that kept me interested throughout its 600 pages. The book has the requisite pair of elderly twin sisters, but (amazingly) they got along, had always gotten along, and had never changed places with each other. There is a big, old moldering house in the British countryside, there is a fey, heartbroken sister, and there is a decades-old mystery to be solved. Our fresh-faced young narrator solves the mystery (of course) and in the process, learns a great deal about her own past - which, surprise! turns out to be entwined with the sad history of the great house.
I know. I know. It sounds like you've read it before. So have I. But the author took some interesting new turns in this familiar tale, and her writing, while a bit florid in places, is deeply satisfying in others. For me, it was the right book at the right time, and the value of that cannot be under-estimated.