I devoured this book! (5 stars)
Source- review copy
Atria Books- 9th October 2012
I reviewed the Kindle edition. Hardcover is 480 pages.
I am completely in awe of Kate Morton’s evocative writing style and the intriguing mysteries that she manages to so skilfully weave within her dual-time narrative stories. When the opportunity to review The Secret Keeper came up, it’s no exaggeration that I practically jumped at it. I also had really high hopes for it, having loved her writing in the past.
Despite some mixed reviews from some of the online blogs I frequent, which suggested that this wasn’t as strong as her other books, I wasn’t disappointed with this novel by any stretch of the imagination- which is to politely say, that I inhaled it. Yep. Couldn’t put it down. I found this book to be a completely engrossing read, and to be honest, it’s one of those books where every other one I pick up after it for a while might feel a bit ‘meh’ in comparison.
Kate Morton does admittedly have a bit of a formula when it comes to her plots. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but at times the scenario can feel a bit like you’ve encountered it before, though in the end there’s a spin on it and it always evolves into something wonderful and new. Just like here. Often, there’s an old lady reflecting back on memories, a young daughter or granddaughter tracing some sort of family mystery that has been hidden for decades, romance and of course, the dual time narrative. This book has all of that and more, I’m pleased to say.
The plot follows the lives of three very different women, all of whom are inextricably linked by a shocking secret. The story starts in a rural village in 1960’s Oxfordshire one hot summer’s day, when teenager Laurel witnesses her mother plunging a knife into a strange mans chest, killing him instantly. Now in the present day, Laurel’s mother is on her deathbed, yet Laurel is still haunted by the events of that terrible afternoon and the crime she witnessed, to which her mother always claimed was self defence- though Laurel knows that isn’t entirely the truth… A mysterious photo in her mother’s possessions leads Laurel to start facing up to some unanswered questions about her mother’s past, in a journey that will lead her back to WWII and beyond.
I think this has to be my favourite Kate Morton book so far. The writing is hugely atmospheric with some wonderful scene-setting, whether it is WWII London during the Blitz, 1960’s Oxfordshire or the present day. It is clear her research has been extensive as the level of detail is impeccable (but thankfully not too over the top) and feels completely authentic during all time periods. The small nods to the varying social attitudes at the times also felt realistic.
This is admittedly a long book, but I personally feel it was just the right length for all of the content and the themes addressed- and as a reader I became really drawn into the events. The balance seemed fair and equal footing was given to all of the different time threads, though I was more intrigued with the Vivien/Dorothy storyline than the present day.
There are some great little twists and turns in this story as well as some really gripping revelations that kept me turning the pages too. I was anticipating them on some level having experienced her previous books as well as picking up on subtle hints within the plot itself, but when they happened I still sat there saying ‘ooooh’ because they were so well crafted and just worked so aptly. That to me is always the sign of a great storyteller. Pace, timing, characterisation- this book was never boring and I felt genuinely sad when it ended. There are characters to love and loathe and I really wanted to know how circumstances would turn out with all of them.
I wait with bated breath for what Kate Morton comes up with next. No joke. I would recommend this novel to absolutely anyone looking for a historical mystery/romance novel to sink their teeth into.