The Secret Keeper
By: Kate Morton
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.
Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.
I was first introduced to her books when I saw The Forgotten Garden (review) at Costco years ago. Since then I read all of her other books and enjoyed them as well, though I never got around to reviewing them. When I found out that she was coming out with this book a few years ago, I was excited and curious, though I didn’t get to pick up a copy of this book until last year.
The story of The Secret Keeper is aptly named for nothing is what it seems. Laurel finds herself looking into her mother’s past after a photo slipped out from an old book featuring a woman, Vivien Jenkins, whom she never heard off. The story goes back and forth between 2011 and 1941. It’s a slow burn as readers follow Dorothy, vivien and Jimmy and their inevitable encounters and ensuing tensions; perhaps it was a little too but I think the gradual unfolding of the story was no different than her other novels and I may have just been a little impatient these past few days to sit still and appreciate the pacing. The drama between the three characters can also be a little too much to handle at times, but it’s a credit to the writer that it had me caring for these characters enough that I was stressing over them =P
I really enjoyed the storyline taking place in 2011, with Laurel and her siblings. It’s sad because on this flip side of the story, Dorothy’s health is failing and the siblings have come together to take care of her before she passes away, but I really enjoyed the interaction between the siblings. If Dorothy had something dark happen to her in 1941, the 2011 storyline shows how much happiness had come into her life since then. While the siblings obviously have their rivalries and their snark attack moments, there’s no doubt that they had a happy childhood, and a lot of their reminiscing shows that. I found Gerry to be especially adorable for some reason, probably because he seems to just work at his own pace compared to his sisters. And I love how Laurel looks out for him and the others. If only Iris and Daphne had more scenes with the rest of them (though with Daphne, here busy-ness with her show and everything probably said enough about her).
Overall, The Secret Keeper is yet another fantastic title from Kate Morton. A little too stressful at times and the drama circling Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy would’ve bumped my rating to a 3 but I do appreciate the way the author approached the story and the characters and I love the sibling interaction in the 2011 storyline (not to mention the revelation towards the end and that perfect last scene) so ultimately it’s a 4 for me. Highly recommended if you’ve enjoyed her other books or you enjoy a historical fiction title and/or books with family secrets and the like.