Voluntarystress's Reviews > The Secret Keeper

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
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Oct 15, 12

Read in October, 2012

As a huge fan of Kate Morton’s work I was ecstatic to be sent a prepublication copy of her latest book to review. Wow ! ! What a read. I thought that “The Forgotten Garden” would definitely be her best novel. She could surely not surpass that. I was wrong. A big book. A big story.

The book opens in 1961,on an idyllic rural scene of a country farmhouse bathed in sunshine and a young family of four girls and their loving parents celebrating the birthday of their baby brother. Then something shocking happens in this blissful scene that will have repercussions down the years. The event is witnessed by the eldest daughter, Lauren and has a profound effect on her. Your attention is grabbed. In 2011, now a mature and internationally acclaimed actress, Lauren is prompted to delve into her mother, Dolly’s early history by the discovery of a photo of her mother taken in 1941 with an unknown friend that neither she nor her sisters have seen before. At this point in the story, which had begun relatively slowly, I did wonder how such a seemingly simple plot could sustain a large book. Again I was very wrong.

The tale now becomes a very clever weaving of a look back at events in the mother, Dolly’s life in 1938 and then1940 and 1941, with Lauren’s continuing search in 2011. Huge skill has been needed to construct and progress the story through two simultaneous time zones. Kate Morton has pulled it off. I had to keep reminding myself that we, the readers, were privileged to know details of the mother’s life of which her daughter was unaware. As these two parts of the story progress side by side the narrative gains pace to climax in a huge revelation which came as a massive surprise. As ever Kate Morton’s research is meticulous, recreating war time London so evocatively and juxta positioning that dark and desperate period of misery against the peace and security of the country farm house in which the family had such a happy upbringing. This book grows on you. It begins quietly, idyllically, but ever so gradually builds to a huge momentum. There are moments to make you reflect, i.e. the eldest daughter as a grown woman says, “Perhaps all children are held captive in some part by their parent’s past”. The story should strike a cord with any of us who feel that there is something of a mystery in our not too distant past, lies that were perpetuated for the sake of appearances. But in this case, something far more serious than appearances is at stake. How many of us have tried to dig beneath the accepted version of our family’s history and got nowhere. I can empathise with Laurel, not only being the same age, but having tried to understand a family secret and failed. The very best descriptive passages are of a little girl’s life in the Australian Bush, which might possibly be autobiographical.

As I read I wondered who was the real heroin of this story and in fact how many heroines there were. By the end you are left in no doubt. It has been a real pleasure to immerse oneself in a book that is so well written, researched and crafted. I finished this novel on a high and my great regret is that I have now read it. The wait for the next Kate Morton book will seem interminable.
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