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The Secret Keeper

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During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

484 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2012

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About the author

Kate Morton

47 books22.8k followers
KATE MORTON is an award-winning, New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author. Her seven novels - The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper, The Lake House, The Clockmaker's Daughter, and Homecoming - are published in over 45 countries, in 38 languages, and have all been number one bestsellers around the world.

Kate Morton was born in South Australia, grew up in the mountains of south-east Queensland, and now lives with her family in London and Australia. She has degrees in dramatic art and English literature, and harboured dreams of joining the Royal Shakespeare Company until she realised that it was words she loved more than performing. Kate still feels a pang of longing each time she goes to the theatre and the house lights dim.

"I fell deeply in love with books as a child and believe that reading is freedom; that to read is to live a thousand lives in one; that fiction is a magical conversation between two people - you and me - in which our minds meet across time and space. I love books that conjure a world around me, bringing their characters and settings to life, so that the real world disappears and all that matters, from beginning to end, is turning one more page."

You can find more information about Kate Morton and her books at https://www.katemorton.com or connect on http://www.facebook.com/KateMortonAuthor or instagram.com/katemortonauthor/

To stay up-to-date on Kate's books and events, join her mailing list here: https://www.katemorton.com/mailing-list/

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5 stars
62,690 (39%)
4 stars
63,829 (40%)
3 stars
24,319 (15%)
2 stars
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1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 16,016 reviews
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,103 reviews410 followers
October 3, 2012
I had this mystery figured out at least five different times throughout the book. Because I'm smart like that. But then new information came to light so I had to change my mind. I did get one major part right but I completely missed the big shocker. Wow.

Typical Kate Morton style, there are double meanings in the sentence structure. Additionally, Morton is gifted in her transitions. Different time periods and different points of view left me hanging at the end of each chapter but only a short while but kept me reading. Slow starting after the initial shocker in the first chapter but impossible to put down once I was in the rhythm.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,945 followers
September 9, 2013
No spoilers. I promise. Which means I won't go into much plot detail.

In 1961, when Laurel Nicolson was sixteen, she witnessed a shocking event. She and her mother were the only ones who knew the truth, and they never spoke of it. Fast-forward to 2011. Laurel is a famous actress in her sixties, and her mother Dorothy is dying. Before her mother dies, Laurel wants to uncover the roots of that long-ago shocking event. Her investigation takes her back to the London of 1941, when her mother was young and impulsive and full of secret plans. The story alternates between 2011 and 1941, following Laurel's discoveries about the mother she thought she knew.

Kate Morton has a wild imagination and the heart of a romantic. She creates intricately plotted stories full of tragedy and betrayal and lost loves and second chances. Her characters are colorful, and they'll always trip you up as you stumble over their secrets.

I wouldn't say Morton's novels are formulaic, but they do all follow a similar pattern. Present-day characters run across a clue or two that makes them suddenly keen to delve into their family history, about which they were heretofore strangely incurious.

Things always fall into place for these characters as they trek into the past. Photographs are found with cryptic inscriptions on the back. Old letters and postcards drop from the pages of forgotten books. There is always at least one person from the old days who is still alive and can point the seeker in the right direction. And...mirabile dictu...someone kept a journal! That journal always reads more like a novel, and happens to contain all the info that couldn't have been obtained elsewhere.

Am I making fun of Kate Morton? Well, maybe, but only a little. She's a clever lady who provides many happy hours of escape reading for her fans. You have to go into it knowing it's going to be farfetched, and just enjoy the whole crazy convoluted confection. So why only three stars for THE SECRET KEEPER?

#1)Morton develops her characters by going off on tangents. Long tangents, sometimes taking up an entire chapter. When she gets back on track, you've lost the thread of the plot.

#2)Lots of unnecessary scenes, apparently meant for atmosphere, but to me they're just clutter. I fear Morton is going to lose some impatient readers, because you have to get all the way to the halfway mark of THE SECRET KEEPER before it gains any momentum. And even then it drags quite a bit in some spots.

#3)Morton places too much emphasis on the romantic aspects of her stories. I prefer "the least you need to know" about the mushy stuff, and get on with the mystery. I had the same problem with THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON.

Here's my record so far with Kate Morton's books:

The Forgotten Garden - 5 stars
The House at Riverton - 3.5 stars
The Distant Hours - 1 star

If your record looks better than that, you're going to love this one, too.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,078 reviews59k followers
May 16, 2018
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton is a 2012 Atria publication.

When Laurel Nicolson was sixteen years old, she witnessed her mother, Dorothy, stab a man to death. The man was a stranger, but he seemed to know her mother and she seemed to recognize him, too. The matter was ruled self-defense and no charges were filed.

Now, decades later, after enjoying much success as an actress, Laurel returns home to celebrate her mother’s ninetieth birthday. With her mother’s descent into dementia becoming more prominent, Laurel knows that if she is ever to discover the truth about what happened that fateful day, all those years ago- if she ever was to experience closure and peace about an incident that has haunted her for fifty years, she had to act now, before it was too late.

As Laurel begins her investigation, she is taken on a journey that spanned from pre- world war two England, through the 1960’s. Laurel will learn things about her mother’s past, she never could have imagined, as puzzling personality traits clash with the woman Laurel thought she knew. Bit by bit the pieces of a complex puzzle begin to fit into place, as stunning secrets come to light that will leave the reader stunned, bemused, and even delighted.

This book has been on my radar for years, however, it kept slipping down the TBR pile. But, in all honesty, I think I let it sit and gather dust for a time because Kate Morton is not prolific, or an author given to mass production. Her books are always very special, so I like the idea of having one of her novels around that I haven’t read yet, saving it for a rainy day, if you will. After it was recently announced that Morton had a new book coming out soon, in celebration, I decided to treat myself. Naturally, it was worth the wait- but I’m glad I finally gave in and succumbed to Morton’s mesmerizing prose, as she weaves this spellbinding, and riveting tale, of history, love, friendship, and family.

Secrets are my favorite. I love stories with lots of secrets. The reasons why the characters kept the secrets, why people want or need to know them, and what impact those secrets will have on the characters once they are exposed is always fascinating to me.

In this instance, family secrets are at the center of the story, and boy are they juicy. What an incredible story!!

Dorothy’s parents are killed in the blitz, and she takes a job as the caretaker of a very wealthy woman who hints to Dorothy that she might be remembered in her will. Meanwhile, Dorothy becomes engaged to Jimmy, a talented photographer, and befriends a neighbor named Vivien. But, all of Dorothy’s plans cave inward when she believes Vivien has betrayed her, which prompts her to obsessively seek revenge on her. But, as is often the case, her carefully crafted, but mean-spirited, plan backfires horrifically. From that moment on, Dorothy begins to harbor a host of incredible secrets that someday her daughter, Laurel, will discover. Secrets that will shift the axis of Laurel’s universe, and mine too, just a little bit.

As always, Morton’s storytelling is brilliant. The historical sections of the story are absolutely riveting and so absorbing I felt like I was actually there watching events unfold in real time. The characters are very well drawn, and I have to confess I have a big soft spot for Jimmy. I never imagined the story would take so many unexpected turns, that the characters would make the choices they did, or why they would make them. All I can say is I couldn’t have asked for more! I loved every single second of this journey. The only downside was that the ending came entirely too soon.
5 stars
Profile Image for Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews).
1,700 reviews874 followers
April 7, 2016
Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!

I love this book wholeheartedly. Kate Morton rocketed to my absolute favorite author list last year on the strength of The Distant Hours and The Forgotten Garden, but this latest novel absolutely cements and guarantees her continued place there. The Secret Keeper blew my mind. Honestly, it might even rival The Distant Hours for my all-time favorite Kate Morton and mystery novel. It's just that good great; it's more of what Kate Morton does so very very well. All the time taken and careful preparations of the plot, scene, characters clearly show, and add up to make this novel a compulsive read filled with vibrant and flawed characters. I wanted to stretch out my reading experience - it's one of those few times when 480 pages seems like too little for a novel rather than a good size. For all my restraint and desire to keep this going as long as possible, I inhaled this novel in 14 hours - eight of which I was sleeping. An impressive fourth novel from a very talented author, fans and newcomers alike will eat The Secret Keeper up.

When I first started this, I was sure I was going to like it, but it didn't immediately grab me the way her first two novels had. I was curious, and intrigued where the multiple plotlines across various periods of time would eventually go, but it wasn't until about 100 pages in that I was truly gripped and aware that I was reading something truly special. The tension slowly builds as main character Laurel uncovers more and more about her mother's life before children and marriage, evoking both intensity and curiosity as her revelations show a very different woman than the mother she had known her whole life. The shifting perspectives of various characters (Laurel, her mother Dorothy, and a woman named Vivien) from 1941 to 1961 to 2011 allow for a wide view of the plot across the many eras that impact the story. The merging of the different plotlines and timeliness works so well under this author's capable hands. I did not want to put this down to eat, to sleep, or anything. It's hard to write this review because the reveal and payout are so rewarding, and I don't want go give anything - ANYTHING - away that might spoil the deft authorial sleight of hand that Morton has going.

I had high hopes going into reading The Secret Keeper, and if anything, this book exceeded any and all expectations I had for it. Morton's obvious and immense talent for prose, for setting, and for crafting such realistic, concrete characters to operate upon the page - alive in all their wishes, hopes, pasts, flaws, and mistakes - marks her as one of the best authors I have ever had the pleasure to read. With twists and turns and huge reveals that I never predicted and never once came off as hackneyed, this is an author that continually proves she knows how to write a story, as well as a truly mystifying mystery. An impressive storyteller with talent across the board including an-all-too-rare talent for subtlety and foreshadowing, her latest novel is heavy on detail, inner observations, and contemplation, but is never slow or boring. Themes of unexpected consequences, and desire are explored with caution and care, further adding to the complicated plot of the novel. With one of the top three best endings I've ever had the surprise of reading, The Secret Keeper is thoroughly satisfying and totally unpredictable.

Kate Morton is amazing. I am a huge fan, and I won't let too much time go before I dig into the only novel of hers I've yet to read - The House at Riverton. Her style is uniquely her own, and her ability to create such detailed, well-characterized novels truly sets her above most other authors. Nuanced, emotionally involving, original, and completely wonderful, The Secret Keeper further proves that my fangirling extreme love for Kate Morton's novels is more than founded - it's necessary. I haven't had such a strong reaction to a novel in far too long; I cared intensely about the characters, I was caught up in every timeline shown. This is an author who will be a favorite for a long, long time. I can only hope that a fifth novel is on the horizon for this immensely talented writer.
Profile Image for Melisa.
324 reviews516 followers
February 18, 2017
ALL THE STARS. Every single one of them.

The Secret Keeper is a story of love; of family and friendships and human nature and perseverance.

Set during the Blitz of WWII and present day, the alternating timelines told from different characters are woven so beautifully and intricately to create the perfect story and mystery.

No one, and I mean NO ONE, does family secrets like Kate Morton. It is no secret that I am a huge fan of hers. Her stories are so well-developed and beautiful, her characters stick with you for a very long time. And the language. She writes so beautifully, you can't help but get swept away with her words.

This was my last unread Kate Morton novel, I had it tucked away for a rainy day because I was sad at the thought of having no more of her stories to hear.

At almost 500 pages, some critics will say that it is too long winded, however I feel the opposite. I feel that every word was necessary to create this incredible tale.

I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to learn what happened in the mystery. And it was SO worth it. Highly, highly recommend.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
July 12, 2018
3.5 stars for this dual-timeline historic novel, with an emphasis on WWII-era London. Laurel has never gotten over seeing her mother stab and kill a man (with their birthday cake knife! Tied with a red bow! I will never look at birthday cake knives the same way again) when Laurel was 16 years old. Her mother never really explained the killing to Laurel, other than the explanation she gave the police (which Laurel knows isn't true), and Laurel never asked her mother about it. Now Laurel is much older, her mother is dying and something seems to be weighing on her mind, and Laurel decides she needs to Solve the Mystery of her mother's life and find out what caused the murder.

There is a lot of jumping back and forth in time in this book, between 2011 and WWII-era times in England during the Blitz, with several scenes from other time periods thrown in for good measure, but it wasn't overly confusing. I'm no WWII expert, but the historical scenes seemed well-researched and realistic.

My main problem with this book was that I didn't really care a whole lot about Laurel and, worse yet, I gradually grew to actively dislike Dolly, the main character from the WWII scenes. This is a problem when a good chunk of the book is written from Dolly's perspective, if you're a reader who needs a main character that's sympathetic. About the time Dolly really started to irritate me, though, the historic story lines switched to other characters' POVs and so, with a sigh of relief, I soldiered on and finished the book.

When the mystery gets resolved in the end, it was both surprising (even though I was keeping my eyes out for a twist) and satisfying. A worthwhile read if you like historic fiction.
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,722 followers
August 12, 2022
Ever since I read my first book by Kate Morton, I've been keen to read all her others. This month I went with The Secret Keeper since I tend to love books where there's a secret buried somewhere that must come out despite every intent to bury it years ago. I was thrilled with the novel and can't wait to take on the next one.

The book takes place over a period of ~60 years focusing for the most part on Dorothy (Dolly) and daughter Laurel. We see snapshots of their lives while Laurel tries to unravel the mystery of a childhood incident where she's certain she saw her mother stab a stranger. We see the perspective of a few other characters who interacted with Dolly when she was younger, as well as Laurel's three sisters and one brother. It all comes together in a surprising conclusion where readers are forced to decide how we feel about an event that can be seen from many different angles.

Morton is the best at weaving together a story full of so many different side stories, you can never tell which will be the significant one to change the entire ending or plot arc to capture your shock. As this one moved along, I enjoyed the lyrical prose, tense dialog, well-drawn characters, and thrilling descriptions. About 75% through, when I thought I'd figured most of it out, I was feeling a bit disappointed. It was good, but that shock factor didn't emerge as powerfully as I'd hoped. A few chapters later, in the most unusual place, I thought I saw an error. I re-read the passage twice, then realized -- Oh, here's that crazy twist! And what a fantastic one it was. :)

At that point, my opinion on the book shot up from a 4 to a 4.5. I would love to give it 5 stars, and it's close, but there were a few moments of repetition and slowness that held me back. By no means did it make me want to put it down and wait days before reading again. It just didn't force me to stay up super late... but that's okay, sleep is needed, too. Overall, the story is very enthralling on many levels. You've got a backdrop of war, then modern social media times. You've got a mother who might or might not be lying or be a killer. As you read the historical portions, you can't decide which of two girls is the one to believe. It keeps you going to the point you almost think they're both lying, but which is the most pertinent among all the confusion?

Above all the plot and story, the settings are among the most gorgeous and captivating as any I've ever read before. Morton can describe the simplest things in the most complex terms, but it still makes me yearn for more. I never think "ugh, she's completely overdone it," but there are times when I would be okay with a few less words if it's not ultimately important to the detail of the story. It's a fine line, and in 98% of the cases, she's spot on.

If you've never read her work, this is a good one, but I'd start with The Forgotten Garden then come to this one. I've two more left to read of hers, then I'll probably have to wait a year for the next to be published. Oh well... sometimes patience is a good thing.
Profile Image for Annemarie.
250 reviews697 followers
May 29, 2018
In the review of the last Kate Morton book I've read (The Distant Hours), I had complained about how I couldn't get a good "grip" on the characters and felt rather underwhelmed by their character traits. This time I felt the complete opposite!

I loved everyone involved in the story. This book was even more character-driven than her others. Of course there were several events happening (and I really liked the overall plot!), but the focus was on developing believable characters with strong personalities and a compelling life, and the author definitely succeeded in doing that. Everyone just seemed so real...at the end I actually had to remind myself that this is all just made up and did not actually happen!

I figured out a possible solution to the mystery about halfway through the novel, which at the end proved to be correct. However, Mrs. Morton has a way of writing that keeps up the suspense and makes you change your mind on what might happen all the time. I kept on guessing and guessing and came up with different solutions constantly. I often thought I had figured everything out, but then the story took a different direction than I expected and I changed my mind again.

The writing style was consistent throughout; I never felt bored or like things were too drawn out. The changes between the different time periods were done very well and felt connected to each other.
I don't really know what else I can say, besides that this was a wonderful book that brought me a huge amount of joy and kept me entertained the whole time I was reading it.
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,647 followers
October 21, 2017
A family saga of broad scope, this was an interesting story. Part mystery, part adventure, part romance, part war story, and all heart. This book is told in 4 parts – Laurel, Dolly, Vivien, and Dorothy. However, there is a crossover in characters throughout, and the time frame moves between the war years from 1939 through 1941 and the year of 2011. There are bits and pieces involving other characters and other time frames, but they exist only to set up or clarify these main characters and times.

The mystery begins when Laurel, the oldest of 4 girls and a boy, witnesses a shocking incident from her hiding spot in the family treehouse when she is sixteen years old. Many years later, with their mother aged into her 90’s and dying, Laurel feels compelled to discover how various subtle clues in the family’s history link to that time. Her need to know leads her on travels to visit people, to archives of information, and to her family’s attic where an old trunk opens to reveal more puzzles.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and although earlier on I had accurately guessed at a fairly big reveal, I certainly did not know all the details or how it all came about. The one critique I will offer is that in the first two parts I felt I was invited too often and too deeply into some of the character’s thoughts. I would have liked to have discovered more about them without being present in their heads quite so much. On the other hand, in the last two parts I was treated to more subtlety and my mind could dwell on more possibilities.

This is not a one-afternoon type of read. You can expect to spend upwards of 10 hours solid reading altogether (and that may not include time spent shedding a few tears and locating tissues), but it is worth the time spent. This is a well-plotted novel with many threads to it – and all of them are drawn into the overall tapestry by the end. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the combination of genres I mentioned in my second sentence and is willing to spend time getting to know a large cast of characters, their families, and how they weathered some tough times together.

4.5 Stars!
389 reviews
November 4, 2012
I so looked forward to this book - Ms. Morton has been one of my favorite authors. Alas, this was a bit of a disappointment. Even though it is difficult for me to be succinct, I shall try.

1. This was hard for me to "get into". It seemed to take forever for things to develop, making me understand those reviewers who gave up early on.

2. Even though the bulk of the plot took place in the early 1940's, the set up was for Laurel and her siblings to figure out the mystery from 2011. But....their characters were mostly one-dimensional. I would, perhaps, have enjoyed fewer characters in the book, but more fully developed characters.

3. It was difficult for me to feel much sympathy or concern for most of the characters. There was little redeeming about any of them, particularly Dolly. I found her deceit a little too convenient, or plotted might be the better term. She was unlikeable at best.

4. And after spending more time than I wanted, reading a book that was longer than the plot or characters justified, and feeling somewhat manipulated by the obviously calculated "twists and turns" I feel a bit cheated. Ms. Morton has proved that she can do so much more. And can do so in fewer pages!

5. I actually did make note of several passages that I wanted to remember because the words were so lovely. But when I got to the end, decided that they were so few (in comparison to the sheer number of words in the book) it wasn't worth the bother.

6. I'll look forward to Ms. Morton's next book, but most likely won't be so anxious to get it in my hands.
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
903 reviews1,816 followers
May 19, 2019
Going back and forth in timelines of 1941, 1961, and 2011, this was a story full of dark secrets, ambition, jealousy, and forgiveness.

I will write a proper review for this later.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,177 reviews539 followers
August 22, 2017
The prose was exceptional, sublime.
The plot - a huge surprise.
The characters - endearing.
The ending - prima.
The mystery - thrilling!

As historical fiction - as atmospheric as it can get, with an ambiance of mystery and a light thriller touch. Spellbinding.

Five stars indeed, although some dragging took place, the narrative jumped around, resulting in some confusion, and the ending just would not come. But when it did, it was mind-blowing.

What an intriguing journey it was for the reader. Realistic. The clues were all there, and all missed. It left me thrilled to be wrong! In the end I wanted to rate it five stars for the way this book made me feel. One of the best books I have read so far this year.

140 reviews3 followers
January 16, 2013
A Kate Morton book that I didn't want to keep reading?! How could that be? She's one of my favorite authors, and I really enjoyed her earlier three. They had a simmering, ellusive mystery, with the suggestion of something magical. But this one started right of with a slasher murder. I didn't quite buy Laurel's fabrication when questioned by the police; pretty slick for a teenager (wasn't she just 16 years old?)

The flash back to WW2 and the bombing - it was supposed to be terrifying but somehow the author didn't tell me enough about Vivien and Jimmy's disappearance to have the scene grab my interest. A next passage, Dorothy and her impossibly dull family. Then present day Laurel, a lukewarm character and some kind of actress.

I began to look at the book on my reading table and felt no interest in spending any more time with it. I jumped to the end to find out what happened, and am not sorry I didn't keep reading.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Yianna Yiannacou.
Author 6 books78 followers
June 21, 2019
Wow, just wow. Kate Morton has done it again. This book kept me hooked the entire time. She has a way with words that enthralls you and keeps you wanting more and more. 

This book is about a young woman named Laurel and she wants to figure out her mothers past. After seeing a horrific scene when she was younger, and her mother now on her death bed, she finds it more important that she figures out why her mother did what she did to protect her family. 

There were so many twist and turns and even more questions that I needed answered. I love how Kate brings us into the past from her mothers perspective as well, so this book lets you look deep into both characters motives. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a great family history mystery. These books are such an easy read that you will finish before you even realize it! 
Profile Image for Karen.
524 reviews19 followers
April 5, 2015
My actual rating is 3.5 stars

The opening of the story starts with a bang set in the early 1960’s as 16 year old Laurel Nicolson witnesses a shocking crime. Everything she knows about her mother and her family is turned upside down. In Morton style, the story flashes forward to 2011 and Laurel is now in her 60’s revisiting her family farm where she grew up. Her mother is celebrating her 90th birthday and Laurel is searching for answers to family secrets from so long ago.

This story was a real slow burner that took me quite a while to feel engaged in. I did enjoy it even though I never really felt connected to the characters. It seemed like I was watching from the outside rather than feeling the empathy I wanted, but the last third of the book definitely kept me reading. Kate Morton is amazing at character development and atmosphere but this story didn’t quite hold the same magic that I felt about the “Forgotten Garden.” The use of flash backs and flash forwards requires the reader to keep track of everything and it can sometimes feel convoluted to me. (I’m sure many readers like the challenge of this but I’m not one of them). I think with this type of writing style, it’s very important to make time to read as continuously as possible. When I began, I only read a chapter or two each time and it was difficult to keep the facts straight when I picked the book up again. There is a lot going on in this story and even minor details sometimes turn out to be significant later on. So my advice—set aside a chunk of time for reading and the story will flow much better.

In regards to historical fiction, I felt the author did her homework about London during the blitz. I really appreciated understanding this event in history a little better. Ms. Morton has such a talent of being able to immerse the reader in the setting and make it feel completely authentic especially as it was shown to us through the eyes, heart, and lenses of Jimmy Metcalfe.

I also liked the fact that at the beginning of the book we form opinions about the characters and as the story progresses, new layers are peeled away and our whole perspective changes and things are not what they seemed. These new revelations kept me interested and made the characters much more human and flawed. We all make mistakes and I liked how the story makes you contemplate how you might react in such difficult circumstances.

The ending caught me by surprise and I actually said, “Wait…what just happened?!” I had to go back and re-read the previous few paragraphs to make sure I hadn’t missed something. I began formulating my own ideas about how it would come together, but I was wrong…Again! I loved the conclusion and even teared up but I’m a softy. Kate Morton knows people and how to write them. I was captured once again by the way she describes feelings about family—the little nuances that we can all relate to---the warmth and security of belonging and being loved.

Was it a happy ending? Here’s what Kate Morton has to say about “Endings” and it felt “right” to me.

“I don’t not believe in happy endings, but I don’t believe all endings need to be happy ones. Of far more importance to me is what I call “narrative rightness.” Narrative rightness is that feeling you get when you read the last page of a book, or finish watching a movie, and you experience a welling up of emotion---pleasure verging on the thrill of culmination---because the story ended exactly as it should. It’s not an easy thing to describe, but I have a theory that we’re all equipped to recognize “rightness” at a deep, human level, even if we can’t always find the words to describe why we feel it. It’s a sixth sense, of sorts, an awareness of balance so that the ending feels complete and inevitable---as if it’s the only way the story could have ended.”
Profile Image for Iryna *Book and Sword*.
446 reviews641 followers
July 8, 2018
3/5 stars

Two things saved this book for me: Vivien and the twist at the end. If not for that I was fully prepared to give this book 2 stars and be done with it.

​For starters, 480 pages is way too long for a mystery novel. Even if this is a historical fiction mystery (although there was't nearly as much history in it as I'd have liked for I love myself a good war story!) - it was just way too drawn out.

​Take it from Agatha Christie, the mystery queen herself, a good mystery doesn't and shouldn't be longer than 350 pages.

This would have worked out so much better just as a war time story about love and jealousy - not a mystery, because surprisingly the way the mystery was solved was the most annoying component in this book.

For starters Laurel was an immersive bore of a character and I couldn't wait to get on other people's points of view. For so many pages given to the character development she wasn't developed at all - so much time was spent on her but she was merely a tool for the mystery solving and a not very good one at that.

The way the clues came to her (ohhh look all of those people kept journals and they still exist, how convenient ) and how she kept guessing correctly every time about how the story went all of those years ago - I couldn't help but roll my eyes, it was so not believable! She's not a detective, and she's definitely no Sherlock Holmes so having her just guess and piece all of the things together was very cheesy and quite frankly, annoying.

When reading pages set in 2011 I kept thinking "hurry up hurry up" for I just wanted to get on with the plot but Laurel kept rambling on and on about nothing at all. That said I loved all of the parts set in 1941 - Vivien, Jimmy and Doll and also their childhood stories were very well put together and I enjoyed every page of it. It almost feels like 2011 and 1941 were written by different people.

Despite Doll being the most horrible human being on earth, and Jimmy not being the brightest at times when it counted, and despite the long wait to actually uncover the whole of Vivien's story it was still so enjoyable. I only wish there was more scenery to it, because the war wasn't depicted very much in this - just bombings here and there, food rationing and orphans in the hospital - there just wasn't enough of a war atmosphere for me.

I don't think I will read more of Morton, I looked at her other books and they all are 600+ pages behemoths (this is a lie as I already have two more of her books on my TBR - one thought NetGalley and one from a thrift store, so I'm giving you another chance Morton). And if I thought that 480 pages was drawn out I can't even imagine what I would think of a mystery novel that's 600+ long. Because unless it's epic fantasy I honestly don't have time for books that big.

Profile Image for Brittany.
244 reviews20 followers
October 10, 2012
When I saw Kate Morton’s forthcoming novel listed on NetGalley, my heart skipped a beat, and I audibly gasped . . . I was that excited. The Secret Keeper is a definite winner; for the three days it took me to read it, my kids may have noticed a faraway look in Mommy’s eyes as I was engulfed by the characters’ world. I didn’t properly inhabit my own world until I reached the immensely satisfying conclusion.

The book opens in 1960s England with the Nicolson family celebrating their youngest child’s second birthday. Sixteen-year-old Laurel, the oldest, sneaks away for a moment of peace to her tree house. While perched in her aerie, she sees a mysterious man walk up the road and approach her mother and baby brother. She watches, horrified, as her mother takes the cake knife and violently stabs the intruder. Mysteriously, once the police leave the family farm, her parents never speak of this event again.

Now it is 2011, and Laurel returns from London to visit her elderly mother. She determines to discover exactly what happened on that fateful summer day in 1960 before her mom passes away. Who was the mysterious man? How could her “perfect mother” commit such a shocking act? What kind of woman was her mother before she married her dad, and what does her mom mean when she talks about her “second chance?”

In trademark Kate Morton fashion, the heroine embarks on a quest to find answers, and the reader is launched on a thrilling ride of discovery. The book alternates between the war-torn London of the 1940s, and Laurel’s present day search for answers. The WWII sections were so engaging that I couldn’t put the book down (much to my family’s dismay). Morton does such a superb job of creating interesting, fully-developed characters; she guides the reader to an understanding of each character’s motivations and helps us sympathize with them. The ending was very satisfying and the resonating tone was one of peace, not despair. Readers who were frustrated by The Distant Hours’ slow-moving plot will be pleased that the pace of The Secret Keeper is much faster…the wonderful attention to detail and character development are still there, but never to the detriment of the plot.

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys reading historical suspense with richly developed characters.
Profile Image for Patricia Ayuste.
Author 0 books236 followers
September 25, 2021
Puntuación: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5)

Un asesinato silenciado, una misteriosa amistad y un Londres en plena Segunda Guerra Mundial.

1959, Suffolk. Cuando un desconocido aparece en la fiesta familiar de cumpleaños, Laurel será testigo, desde la casa del árbol, de un terrible crimen que cambiará sus planes para siempre.

2011, Londres. Cuando la madre de Laurel enferma y abre la puerta de su, hasta ahora, desconocido pasado, Laurel indagará más sobre el asesinato que presenció de niña y del que no volvieron a hablar, sobre la historia sentimental de su madre -Dorothy- y la amistad de sus amigos Jimmy y Vivien, así como los sucesos que vivieron durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial y marcaron sus vidas.

Kate Morton cautiva una vez más con una maravillosa novela sobre el amor, la familia y los secretos. Un viaje a saltos entre varias líneas temporales y tres protagonistas que confluyen hacia un emocionante final en una novela que retrata la sociedad británica de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, las clases sociales y el papel de la mujer y que trata temas como la enfermedad, el maltrato, la pobreza, el poder, el dinero, la mentira, la maldad y la infancia.

✔️ Puntos fuertes: la cuidada y envolvente ambientación, contexto histórico, lectura adictiva, la intriga, la pluma narrativa de la autora, una trama interesante y sus múltiples subtramas y giros, personajes bien construidos y carismáticos y el sorprendente final.

❤ Te gustará si: buscas una novela victoriana con tintes de romántica, narrada a saltos temporales, protagonizada por mujeres o si te gusta el estilo narrativo de la autora y has disfrutado con alguna de sus obras de corte histórico.
Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
352 reviews403 followers
November 4, 2015

This could easily be a five star book if it weren't for the length. Over 1200 pages is a little too much, and I felt the story could have been easily trimmed down. Although this is historical fiction during WW2, I didn't feel the gravity of the times these characters were living through. The main story, however, was outstanding. A mystery of a little girl who witnesses her mother kill a man. The rest of the book shifts from past to present, as the little girl who has grown up tries to uncover what really happened. I loved the characters and the twists and turns. I never would have guessed the ending which is quite a shock, and wonderfully so. An excellent read if you've got the time!

Update 11/4/15
This book is NOT 1200 pages, but 484! First time on Kindle, many apologies.
Profile Image for Juliet.
Author 76 books11k followers
December 31, 2012
Kate Morton is an Australian writer of meaty gothic mysteries, usually based on the uncovering of family secrets over several generations. Her novels are meticulously plotted and wonderfully imagined, with English settings that often feature a mysterious garden or old house. Within just a few years, Morton has become an internationally bestselling writer, much loved by her devoted readers.

Her new novel, The Secret Keeper, begins in the 1960s with teenage Laurel, hiding in a tree house, witnessing an act of shocking violence. We move quickly to the present day, and a mature Laurel, now a successful actress, facing the terminal illness of her mother, Dorothy. Laurel realises she and her siblings know almost nothing of Dorothy’s life before she married their father, so she embarks on a mission to find out about her mother’s past and make sense of the terrible event she saw all those years ago, which was explained away at the time with a story she knew to be untrue. So unfolds a fascinating tale of wartime London and the young Dorothy’s relationship with the glamorous Vivien and her writer husband Henry, as well as Dorothy’s faithful sweetheart Jimmy.

The Secret Keeper had me reading deep into the night. It evokes the mood of London during the Blitz brilliantly, but keeps the focus on the characters, never over-loading the story with period detail. I admired the writer’s ability to incorporate a major twist, which caught me completely by surprise when it was revealed near the end. This will appeal to anyone who enjoys well-crafted historical fiction with a touch of the gothic.
Profile Image for Y. L.
65 reviews21 followers
April 21, 2013
I will not hold back on my 5 stars for this book. I had won the uncorrected proof of the book in a giveaway held by Tien at {http://tiensblurb.wordpress.com/} and I can't thank Tien enough for having this giveaway (and the lovely bookmark that came with it!).

The first chapter brings you back to the life of 16-year old Laurel who had witnessed her mother from a faraway treehouse, seemingly stabbing a strange man in the premises of their very own home. Laurel was then coaxed by both her parents into keeping the event a secret from her other siblings. Almost 50 years later, as her mother lies on her deathbed, Laurel (naturally) finds herself wondering who that man was, and what had compelled her mother to commit such an act of murder. What secrets did her mother keep? "Who was Dorothy Nicholson before she became 'Ma' ", as Laurel puts it.

Dorothy's past is slowly uncovered as the Author writes of Dorothy's life as a teenager -- how she had met Jimmy Metcalfe and their passionate young love for each other; Dorothy as a young adult during the World War and her friendship with Vivien -- a beautiful, rich socialite who lived the life that Dorothy wanted; how Dorothy's relationship with Jimmy were on the rocks before Dorothy came up with the plan that changed everything; and finally Vivien's life during the war, and all the secrets she had kept from everyone else but herself.

Kate Morton has a knack for making her characters come to life. There was enough in just one chapter to make you relate to her characters in a way that you could relate to a close friend. I had found myself immersed in the characters that the author had cleverly weaved. They were simple, yet complex enough for them to be loathe in one chapter yet loved in the next, or vice versa. In short, I had especially enjoyed Dorothy's wild nature and free spirit; Jimmy's loyalty and his love for Dorothy and his oh-so-kind heart; and Vivien who was stronger than any of them put together.

Whatever it is, this book will not be short of twists in its storyline. I had caught myself speed-reading through the book several times as the plot thickened, or when Laurel was getting closer to an answer. As a result, I was urgently flicking through the pages to re-read certain parts of the book after I had reached the last page. Hence, I have to warn you that it would be best to dwell a little longer with Laurel on any vague memories or thoughts that she had in her mind. Trust me, it will later be for your own benefit (Morton is quick to hand out vague one-line giveaways that will only want to make you smack yourself for dismissing them pages after).

The author had jumped from one place in time to another, according to Laurel's present discovery of artefacts or new-found knowledge of her mother. Despite that, the book was easy to follow with only my tendency to speed-read to blame.

I will not be surprised if this book is made into a movie of the likes of 'The Lovely Bones' or 'The Time Traveller's Wife'. It has a story line of a movie in the making with characters that can only be more engaging if given the right stage.

NB: Please correct me if I am wrong in any parts of my review, as I have written this out of pure memory :)
Profile Image for Aoibhínn.
158 reviews208 followers
August 11, 2014
The Secret Keeper is a beautifully written historical fiction novel. It has a gripping and original plot with just enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested. The novel was also very well-researched. I thought the various time shifts in the novel were handed quite well and I found the story very easy to follow.

Kate Morton has a tendency to go into too much detail at times. The novel is 600 pages long but the story could have been written in under 400 pages. There were a lot of unnecessary, long-winded details describing the various settings of the novel. I felt it slowed the story down in places, especially at the beginning.

The characters were all interesting, vivid, realistic and well-developed. Some were likable, others were not. I loved the characters of Laurel, Jimmy and Vivien (I think I like her the best!) but I really despised Dorothy Smitham and Henry Jenkins.

The big reveal at the end completely surprised me! I did like the ending though and it did bring a smile to my face!!

There is one major flaw in the story that annoyed me though – near the end of the first chapter. Don't click on this spoiler until you've finished reading the novel because it will definitely spoil the whole ending for you:
209 reviews48 followers
August 2, 2023
Powerfully written, suspenseful book! I love books that are two stories in one—this one had the WWII story of Dorothy and Vivien and Jimmy and Henry, and then the story of Dorothy's daughter Lauren trying to solve the mystery of her mother's life.

The story starts with a bang! Set at a family party, where a strange man shows up and Lauren's loving, kind, wonderful mother Dorothy immediately stabs him to death.

When Dorothy is on her deathbed, she starts to ramble and become upset about something she did in the past, so Lauren becomes determined to figure out just what happened in her mother's life that led to that fatal party, to put her mother at peace.

As the book alternates between Dorothy and Vivien and Jimmy during WWII, and Lauren's detective work, the clues build up. But every time I thought I had figured out what had happened, there would be a twist. Beautifully written, literary sort of thriller, this book should appeal to anyone who likes thrillers, historical fiction, or just any well-written fiction. I'm working my way through everything that this author has written and enjoying the books immensely!!
Profile Image for Mish.
222 reviews100 followers
November 16, 2015
It’s the 1960’s in an English countryside of Greenacres Farm, where the Nicolson family are celebrating a birthday with a picnic. 16year old Laurel is hiding out in a tree house to escape her younger siblings, daydreaming of boys and plans for her glamorous future as an actor. While Laurel was in the tree house unnoticed, she witnessed her mother commit a shockingly violent crime towards a stranger. The truth of her mother’s actions was never openly discussed but Laurel does have strong feelings it’s linked to her mothers past. A past she’s kept hidden so well from her family. These violent images of this day, feeling of guilt, and the unknown truth never left Laurel. The once affectionate caring mother felt like a stranger, and it troubled Laurel through to her adult years.

In the present day, Laurel reunites with her family as her mother’s health deteriorates. Coming to the realisation that her mother may not have long to live and it could be her last hope in obtaining answers, Laurel starts questioning and researching into her mothers past. Her research takes Laurel back in time to 1930’s England through to WWII London blitz where she discovers her mother and two other people – strangers - that could provide the answers to her mother’s darkest secret.

The Secret Keeper turned out to be far better then I anticipated but it took a long time before it got to this point. If it weren’t for members of a book group telling me to persist, I wouldn’t have finished it. The book shifts from the present to the 1930’s focusing on 3 strangers lives, how they came together and where it fell apart. In first half of the book it delves into the life and mindset of one of the 3 that Laurel discovered. A life of shallow and self-centred lady, her moved to London, her desire to associate and be admired by London’s social upper class, and relationship with her boyfriend. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking there’s something not right with this particular lady; there’s more to her then it seem but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Her mindset was significant to the plot twist and I tried to stay interested, but unfortunately it took 250 pages of long-winded writing before it got to the heart of the matter and/or to get her message across. However, about the half waypoint it felt like another author stepped in and wrote it – I was glued to the pages, couldn’t read quick enough. Tight and riveting moving plot of devastating, traumatising family secrets, unimaginable violence, deception and envy.

It was a remarkable, faultless ending but I'm a bit wary of reading another Kate Morton book in the future.
Profile Image for Stepheny.
381 reviews546 followers
July 27, 2015

Kate Morton tells the most fantastic stories. This was my second book by her and I am officially a fan. Her ability to throw you, head first, into her tales is unrivaled.

In this story we meet a young woman who is returning home to be by her mother’s death bed. When she arrives she finds that certain memories are creeping back and begging to be reevaluated. You see, when Laurel was a girl she witnessed her mother kill a man. Who is this man? What could he have possibly said or done that warranted his death?

These are the questions that Laurel needs answers to, among others. She goes on a bit of a quest to find out more about her mother’s history; a journey that is quite enrapturing. You will be travelling back in time while flipping through the pages. Morton once again crosses nearly a century of time in this story to ensure we, the readers, get the full story.

I would love nothing more than to sit here and tell you all about this book and the characters within it. BUT, anyone who has read a book by Kate Morton can tell you that it would only ruin the experience for me to tell you anything more than I have. Trying to figure out the mystery in the story is half the fun.

While I didn't enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed the Forgotten Garden, I still enjoyed it a lot. I just had this one figured out where I never saw it coming with TFG. I strongly recommend not only this book, but The Forgotten Garden as well. I would also tell you to listen to them both on audio. They are truly wonderful tales that you will be completely immersed in.

Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
October 23, 2012
3.5 Finished this several days ago but had to really think what to rate this book because although the beginning starts with a bang, quickly pulling in the reader, I struggled with the middle part of this book. Couldn't really relate to the characters, they seemed to be lacking depth, at least for me, and the book somewhat dragged. Morton has become very proficient at penning novels, with a hint of mystery, history and many family secrets. Love her titles and her book jackets, including the end papers on this one which show an old attic with many old trucks and other family mementos. The last one hundred pages or so once again hooked me on this novel and the many twists and turns kept the novel soaring and me reading feverishly. I did not guess the ending though in retrospect I probably should have. Anyway that was my dilemma which I solved by giving the middle part of the book 3 stars but the beginning and end 4 which averaged out to 3.5. Will await the publishing of her next novel, with I am sure many others.
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,235 reviews145 followers
December 24, 2021
A friend once noted that I'm a little miserly with my five-star ratings, and she's right. I have a lot of three- and four-star books on my list-- all really great reads-- but a book has to really hit me just right to earn that fifth star. The Secret Keeper was one of those books for me.

The sins of yesterday impacting the lives of today- check.

Characters (both major and minor) I'd love to meet, lunch with or share a glass of wine with - check.

Filled with rich visual imagery from start to finish - check.

Thought about the book when I wasn't reading it - check.

Continuously surprised me including its perfect "I didn't see that coming" ending - check.

I'll leave others to write the kind of in-depth analysis so often seen on Goodreads. For me, this simply was my favorite kind of story - a five-star read!
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
1,078 reviews27 followers
August 20, 2014
Let me say first of all that this is only my second book by Kate Morton. "The Forgotten Garden" was my favorite book. I have changed my favorite book to "The Secret Keeper." It's one of those books that you want to read in small increments, but can't because you don't want to let go of it. Can you tell I loved this book? The plot never let me down - it just got more complicated (in a good way) by the minute. The characters were so real to me that I was happy to be an observer of their emotions and turmoil. The highs were so high and the lows were so low that I couldn't believe it. I will go back and read the authors other books soon! I highly recommend this book to anyone who relishes a great story. It is amazing.

Thank you NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this wonderful book and publish an honest review.

Re-read: I actually listened to this book for book club. It was just as amazing as the first time!
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