Newest Review: ... itself throwing out plenty of twists and turns along with way. I found this story to be very clever as it seamlessly interweaved the diff... more
Secrets always find a way of coming out
The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton
Member Name: Mildew82
The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton
Advantages: Cleverly written, gripping mystery, well defined characters, historical elements
Disadvantages: At 600 pages, it may be a little long for some
"The Secret Keeper (2012)" was written by Kate Morton, an Australian author, with 3 previous novels under her belt including the international bestsellers "The House at Riverton (2006)", "The Forgotten Garden (2008)" and her follow up "The Distant Hours (2010)". I've not read any of her three other books, but I will certainly be looking out for them after reading "The Secret Keeper", which I found to be a highly captivating character-driven mystery story. This is in essence what the story is about, purely uncovering a long buried mystery with very little information to go on and whilst I wouldn't describe it as a thriller or a page-turner, it is certainly enthralling enough to keep your attention throughout with the journey of discovery through time itself throwing out plenty of twists and turns along with way. I found this story to be very clever as it seamlessly interweaved the different perspectives of four main characters through the use of third person narratives, all of which were capable of throwing a completely different light on events we thought were set in stone and turning the story unexpectedly on its head. It sort of reminded me a tiny bit of the film "Vantage Point" where each new perspective adds something different to the story and not all the narrators are reliable.
The book is told in 3 parts - Laurel, Dolly (Dorothy) and then Vivien - where the story is told with the main emphasis being on each girl in their respective parts, although inescapably their stories also featured in the other parts where their stories overlapped with the leading lady of the moment and again this was cleverly done in such an order as to disguise the truth of the story for as long as possible to maximise the suspense and mystery. Jimmy, Dolly's boyfriend, was also an integral character, but he simply featured whenever relevant without his tale diverting the course of the story like the other three. Present day Laurel's story appeared everywhere though, slotting in around big revelations that only we, as the reader, were privy to in order to create a cohesive and flowing story and to prevent unexpected jumps across time and perspectives and this was an extremely successful method in avoiding any potential confusion. It was also interesting to see how Laurel went about her investigation and discovered many of the things that we already knew, and her resourcefulness through finding letters, trawling through microfilm in libraries for newspaper articles, tracking down people that were around at the time of the events during the war was both very plausible as a way of realistically going about exploring history and also did a lot to build up the character of Laurel and really make you root for her.
Kate Morton, whilst having an extremely readable writing style to deliver the thoughts and actions of our characters, was also very adept at bringing the different eras to life - present day was easily recognisable, but it was her descriptions of the 1960s with regards to the way things looked and the general social attitude that felt very realistic (not that I was alive then to judge) and particularly of London set during the war in 1940s which was very vivid and had a lot of historical value in my opinion, by highlighting the constant underlying fear from air raids and the tragedy of pointless loss of life but showing the true British spirit of just getting on with things and by also showcasing things like the London clubs at the time which helped to underline how different life was between the upper and middle/lower classes which I felt really added different layers to the story by transporting us quite convincingly through time and giving us a real sense of the fashion and the different social views of the two eras when compared to our own society.
As I mentioned before, this book was very character-driven and as a result the author had to create big characters that make you feel something for them, whether it be positive or negative, and I felt that Kate Morton again was very successful here in creating very distinct and complex personalities with Laurel as the driving force for the story, but Dolly, Vivien and Jimmy as the main players. Despite the story being told almost entirely from the third person, it was written in such a way that we could get inside the characters heads and understand their motivations and emotions, but cunningly, for the flashbacks, only during their specific parts for our three essential ladies which kept the mystery alive, and so it was hard not to get attached to certain characters and feel affected by the events that happened to them which made for a captivating read since there was a sense of urgency to learn about their fates. This was also why having Laurel's present day quest acting as an interval in between stories worked as such a great plot device to keep you on tenterhooks while waiting for the next big reveal. What was also very intriguing was that characters you may well have liked at first became less appealing as more of the story was revealed and vice versa and it was hard to guess what would could possibly happen next.
For such a serious and intense book, there were in fact quite a few moments of subtle humour, mostly from the wry thoughts of Laurel who had quite a pragmatic way of looking at things and a rather dry and creative turn of phrase (albeit in the third person), as well as through her relationships with her siblings who were all very different from each other, especially Gerry who was a bit of an eccentric chap, but again all these characterisations helped to build up a picture of their family as a whole, predominantly a happy one, and therefore by proxy also the life of their enigmatic mother who is clearly hiding something of epic proportions from her life before she became a Nicolson. So, an interesting focal point of the story (when in the present day) looks at Laurel trying to reconcile the image of her loving mother alongside growing evidence of some potential wrongdoing in the past, and allows for an interesting exploration into the bond between mother and daughter, which adds even more incentive in to solving the mystery with this extra emotional element.
A story full of many unexpected turns of events, pleasingly I don't think the final big revelation at the end was that easy to guess, but there was one moment fairly early on in the story where a little seed was planted in my mind that made me wonder if a certain event had happened which I just couldn't shake loose and eventually I was proved to be right, which almost always never happens in these types of books so that was something quite satisfying. Still, even though I'd guessed it, it didn't take anything away from my enjoyment of the story as I was actually willing it to be true towards the end and was anxious that it wouldn't be, which I think gives an indication of just how involved I got with the characters, so kudos to Kate Morton for creating such compelling characters. So, to summarise "The Secret Keeper" is a clever, neatly written story with a somewhat dark edge to it, tinged with moments of humour but with the focus mainly being on the exploration of human nature and relationships set across three different eras in an enthralling mystery. This is not a thriller, but still manages to keep you gripped through your attachment to the characters, so I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone that likes a good old mystery.
Summary: A gripping, and emotional mystery that sends us on a journey through time