Jena Henry's Reviews > The Forgotten Secret

The Forgotten Secret by Kathleen McGurl
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it was amazing

“You can research ancestry all you like, but how people actually felt and what they thought is lost in the mists of time.”

This quote from The Forgotten Secret is why I enjoy reading historical fiction. Fictional stories let us part the curtain to the past, to a past that is more than dates and monuments, to show us a time filled with real people trying to live their real lives. Author Kathleen McGurl succeeds in giving us two different women, living at two different touchpoint times in their lives.

Clare is our modern-day guide. She is about to turn fifty and hopes that “being 50 will be the start of a wonderful new phase in my life.” When she inherits her Uncle Padraig’s dilapidated farmstead in Ireland, a desire awakens in her to live in the place in Ireland. Her adult son encourages her to leave her home in England. He quotes W.B. Yeats to her, “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there.”

Arise and go now becomes Clare’s mantra. And she has good reason to leave- her husband of twenty-five hears has become increasingly controlling. Many changes await Clare as she begins her new life, but the most interesting is that she finds a hidden secret in an old chair by the fireplace of her farm in Ireland.

And that is how we meet Ellen O’Brien, from the Ireland of about 1919. Ellen’s story is told in the third-person, and alternates chapters with Clare’s first-person accounts. Ellen has also reached an age milestone- she has recently turned eighteen. Changes await her as well, as she begins a new job as an upstairs maid and as she learns about love with her childhood friend, Jimmy. The Author uses Ellen and Jimmy to bring to life the struggles of the Irish Republicans.

Both women have fascinating stories and the author writes in an engaging and readable style, with a few twists along the way. There are helpful historical notes about the history of Ireland in a preface to the book, which helped me, as I didn’t know the details of Ireland’s history. I enjoyed this book, and if anything, I wish it had been longer, as Clare and Ellen both have complex stories, that would have been richer with a slower unfolding.

Thanks to NetGalley and Rachel’s Random Resources for a review copy. This is my honest opinion.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
January 20, 2019 – Shelved

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