Strengths: Hints of Gothic undertones, multiple time periods, a deep secret…it’s all there.
Weaknesses: I felt it got a little slow just before the big reveal.
Pages: 582 (ARC)
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
I have been eagerly awaiting the release of The Secret Keeper – and not terribly patiently. I entered every competition I could find to try and win a copy (otherwise, I knew that my mum would buy it for Christmas – or worse my birthday – and I would have to wait simply eons to read it). Luckily, the excellent folks at The Reading Room and Allen & Unwin kindly chose me to receive a proof copy. After texting Mum to tell her I didn’t need this for Christmas, I sat down and read. Forget dinner, forget chores. This is a book that stops your world!
I’ve always enjoyed Kate Morton’s books, in particular The Shifting Fog (interestingly renamed The House of Riverton apparently because UK readers don’t like books involving fog) and The Forgotten Garden. I didn’t enjoy The Distant Hours quite as much but The Secret Keeper sees her return to top-notch form in my opinion.
Morton is often referred to in interviews that I’ve read as having a Gothic flavour. I’d disagree with that in the traditional sense – it’s not about dusty attics (much), creepy servants on the fringe, madness or eerie old houses (much). I’d describe this book as being more mysterious in terms of secrets, history and unfolding the past through various layers. It won’t scare the pants off you, but you will look a little drained after ‘just one more chapter’ over several nights!
The plot, like Morton’s other novels, involves multiple time periods. The main character is Laurel, and we first see her in the early 1960s, witnessing a gruesome scene involving her mother and a stranger. Jump forward to the present, as Laurel’s mother is dying and Laurel is now a famous actress. Laurel wants to know more about that fateful day and what it all meant. As Laurel discovers pieces of evidence about her mother’s time in World War II London, the reader is taken back there to experience what Laurel’s mother was up to. The book ticks along beautifully – the Blitz experiences being incredibly interesting – and I found myself wondering what the big secret was about. Then, bam! Morton packs an incredible punch and I immediately wanted to go back and reread the book to see if I could detect the big secret. (I couldn’t though because my friend demanded to read it!) For the amazing twist in the plot alone, this book is incredibly good. Add in the beautifully descriptive and evocative writing and you have a worthy bestseller.
Are there any negative about this book? Well, I thought the pace slowed a little before the big plot reveal (coincidently, just as my own schedule got busier). I would have also liked to know a little more about Laurel’s sisters and what made them so different, but that would be extraneous to the plot. But apart from that, it’s brilliant. I really enjoy books that move between past and present, talking about the everyday person experiencing extraordinary events.
I’d just like to warn Allen and Unwin in advance that I will be camping on your doorstep for the next Kate Morton book!