The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Friday, January 18, 2013


The Secret Keeper
Children don’t require of their parents a past and they find something faintly unbelievable, almost embarrassing, in parental claims to a prior existence.

Sixteen-year old Laurel Nicolson had just gone up to her tree house, to get away from the bustling household and to dream about her crush, when she sees something terrifying - a strange man walking up their driveway, greeting her mom and then her mother kills the man with a knife. Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful actress and the second most popular face in the country when she returns back to her ancestral town, where her mother is dying in a hospital. Revisiting the home that she grew up in brings to surface all those memories from that dark year when she witnessed the crime. Now, more than ever, she wants to find out what happened that day and why her usually cheerful mother committed an act she couldn't fathom. What she discovers, however, is a whole strange world of the 1940s about which not all she learns puts her mother in a good light.

Kate Morton is an author who pops up often in my radar. Although I don't typically read historical fiction, her books still somehow appealed to me quite a lot. I remember seeing The Secret Keeper on a few blogs over the last few months, and this month, one of my online book clubs was reading it - so I took the opportunity to finally read Kate Morton AND complete one item from my no-pressure plans for 2013.

The Secret Keeper had several elements going on in it - plenty of suspense, a lot of strong characters, fast-paced writing, a healthy amount of romance, and quite a few human fallacies and intricacies. It is mainly the story of four people - Laurel, her mother Dorothy, and two people Dorothy knew in her past life - Jimmy and Vivian. The chapters go back and forth between the past and the present, but they mostly revolve around Dorothy. Laurel is trying to find out what horrendous act her mother was running away from - she is terrified of finding something so drastic that she worries her impression of her mother could change.

I could understand why. Dorothy of the past was too proud. She liked to distance herself from her commoner parents, who had no ambition and expected her not to have any big dreams. She liked to imagine herself walking arm-in-arm with the rich and the fashionable, she wanted her boyfriend Jimmy to humor her when she wanted to play make believe tales of being rich. Jimmy, on the other hand, had no patience for such games - having lost his mother to a rich man, and trying to look after a father with demetia, he knows too well how important money is if he wanted to have a happy married life. But Dolly's yearning for extreme richness worries him. And annoyed me a tad too much. While I ordinarily love it when someone aims for the skies, Dolly didn't understand that there was a clear line, however narrow, between wanting to be richer and acting like she was a Queen.

When I finished two-thirds of the book, I figured that the suspense was winding down and thought I had put together all the pieces well. Morton proved me wrong. Not only was a whole new perspective introduced in the last one-third, there were still some twists coming up. And that ending - woot! That just blew me away and in a good way. After all the nasty characteristics of Dorothy were revealed, I was very curious about how that would leave Laurel. It was a wonderful way to end the book.

Although there were a couple of details that I felt far-fetched, overall, I found The Secret Keeper quite enthralling. It had something in store for almost every kind of reader - I appreciated the well-constructed mystery and its fast pacing best. I also liked how this book addressed some interesting questions - the one thought that remained with me was how can someone deal with the embarrassing/disappointing details of their parent's past - what would you do if you learned that your parent was not perfect but instead committed acts that would sadden anyone close to them.


I borrowed this book from the good old library.


22 comments:

JoV said...

I'm a big fan of Kate Morton, although I miss her last two novels, I began her first two with lots of admiration and love. :) Glad this turn out good for you. esp the twist at the end!

bermudaonion(Kathy) said...

I don't read a lot of historical fiction either, but I've heard so many good things about Kate Morton that I really want to try one of her books.

Athira / Aths said...

I felt it was really worth reading this book. The historical fiction element wasn't too dominant and the times within which this book is set is not really that much into the past. I hope you will get the chance to try one of her books.

Athira / Aths said...

I am glad she has more books under her belt. I can't wait to read them too!

Helen Murdoch said...

This sounds like a fun one! I like that you thought you had it figured out, but the author managed to surprise you

Athira / Aths said...

That ending was definitely worth it. It's the kind of ending that could turn out to be manipulative, but Morton managed to make it appear genuine.

Tina Reed said...

What an opening for a story, huh? I've not read this one of any of her books so she is new to me.

Athira / Aths said...

It was a great start for sure. I liked how she didn't waste any time in getting into the story. She had my attention throughout the book.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I bet would love this. Your review had me at suspense.

zibilee said...

I have this one in paper, and The Forgotten Garden in audio, so I need to make time for Morton soon. I actually read a great review of The Forgotten Garden just the other day, and decided to make it my next listen, followed closely by this one. I think it's time to get my Morton fix. So many agree that she is a stupendous author, and that her books are delightful that I feel I can't wait any longer. Excellent review today!!

Athira / Aths said...

I hope you get to read this book! :)

Athira / Aths said...

The Forgotten Garden is the next one I should read. I remember hearing a lot about that one but I never tried to get the book. I hope you will love her too!

Marg Bates said...

I just finished reading this in the early hours of this morningand thought it was really well done. I thought the twists and turns through the story were really well done, and looking back there were enough clues to make the twists plausible without being completely obvious.

Athira / Aths said...

Yay, Marg! Glad you enjoyed it too. I agree with you - I liked that the hints were always there and so the ending didn't come out of the blue. It was a very surprising ending, yet very realistic.

Wendy said...

I really enjoyed this one too! I have found that Morton rarely disappoints...I still have her book The Forgotten Garden in my TBR pile :)

Athira / Aths said...

I need to get hold of Forgotten Garden soon. If Secret Keeper is any indication, I'm sure her other books will be wonderful.

Diane said...

Definitely plan to read this one soon; I've enjoyed the first 2 books by this author.

Sam_TinyLibrary said...

Kate Morton has been on my radar for a while too, but I haven't read any of her books. It sounds like a good escape read, for when I need a book to enthrall me and take me away from the world.

Athira / Aths said...

Yay! I can't wait to read her other books.

Athira / Aths said...

Definitely falls in the escape read category but I love it that it is an intelligent escape read. Most escape reads tend to feel like fluff to me. This was petty good.

Lisa Sheppard said...

I read Morton's The Forgotten Garden and found so much of it too far-fetched for me but it sounds like I might just need to give her another shot.

Athira / Aths said...

I haven't read Forgotten Garden yet, but I'm intrigued now. I don't enjoy far-fetched books so I wonder how I will find that book.