Author: Kate Morton
Publisher: Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Hardcover, 480 pages
ISBN 10: 1439152802
ISBN 13: 9781439152805
The Book Depository / Amazon
1959 England. Laurel Nicolson is sixteen years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime.
Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to Green Acres for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by memories and questions she has not thought about for decades. She decides to find out the truth about the events of that summer day and lay to rest her own feelings of guilt. One photograph, of her mother and a woman Laurel has never met, called Vivian, is her first clue.
The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths some people go to fulfill them, and the strange consequences they sometimes have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers and schemers, play-acting and deception told against a backdrop of events that changed the world.
Almost two years ago, I read and reviewed my first Kate Morton novel, The Distant Hours - five stars for me all the way, with its gothic feel and mysteries within mysteries.
The Secret Keeper is another great read, artfully weaving between WWII England and present-day - telling the story of three women - Laurel, her mother Dorothy (Dolly), and an old friend of Dolly's named Vivien.
When Laurel is sixteen, she witnesses a shocking incident involving her mother. After telling her story to the police, she promptly tries her best to bury the incident. Her two-year-old little brother Gerald was the only other witness, and she hopes that he won't remember it either.
Present-day: Laurel is a well-known actress, and her mother is slowly fading in a nursing home. A photo drops out of an old copy of "Peter Pan" - a picture of her mother and a young woman named Vivien. In Dolly's lucid moments, Laurel begins to question her and becomes determined to know her mother's past before it is too late.
Ms. Morton is a masterful period writer - she vividly brings life during the Blitz to the forefront of the reader's mind. This tale of regrets, lost loves, and mistakes made will keep you turning pages far into the night. I was able to glean parts of the mystery earlier on, but the way the plot unfolded and the additional surprises made it well worth the read.
You will close these pages with a sigh, for Dolly is much more than she appears at first glance, a woman of tremendous strength who definitely deserved the second chance she was given.
QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy):
Youth was an arrogant place, and to believe simply that they were less adventurous than she was had suited Laurel just fine. Not for a moment had she considered that there might be anything beyond Ma's appearance as a happy wife and mother; that she might have been young once herself, and determined not to turn into her mother; that she might even be hiding from something in her past.
It was one thing at the 400, with him so dashing and handsome in the guise of Lord Sandbrook, but here, tonight, dressed in his usual clothing, all tattered and dirty from a night out working in the Blitz . . . Dolly shuddered to think what Vivien would say if she realized Dolly had a boyfriend like him.
Vivien shed desolation like an unwanted coat, and stepped towards the shining lights. It was all so simple really. She had brought about her family's death; she had brought about Jimmy's death; but now she was going to make sure Dolly Smitham was saved. Then, and only then, she would go to the Serpentine and make her pockets heavy with stones. Vivien could see the end and it was beautiful.
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Characters: 4.5 out of 5 starsReading Immersion: 4 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 4 out of 5 stars
BLOGGERS: Have you reviewed this book? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments section; I will also add your link to the body of my review.
Read an excerpt
BUY IT: At Amazon, The Book Depository, through the publisher's website, and through other on-and-off-line booksellers.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary eGalley of this title through NetGalley and a complimentary ARC from the publisher to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received and I was not required to post a positive review.