There is perhaps no one more talented than Kate Morton at weaving multigenerational, modern day families with their historical ancestors. With The Secret Keeper, this talent is continually refined. The family’s past and present is intricately woven in Morton’s trademark neo-gothic style and will keep you reading as the layers are slowly peeled away.
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.
Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world. (Simon and Schuster)
The Secret Keeper is Kate Morton’s best novel since The Forgotten Garden. The story is well-paced and pleasingly unpredictable. The characters inspire emotions that range from love to loathing. There’s Dorothy, a woman who craves status but is in love with the impoverished Jimmy; Jimmy, a kind, talented war photographer devoted to the idea of Dorothy; Vivian, a wealthy orphan in an unpredictable marriage; Henry, her utterly devoted husband; and Laurel, Dorothy’s daughter who is trying to piece together the mysteries of her mother’s early life and greatest crime.
As the story unfolds, the pieces begin to fall into places just as other clues are left. Each chapter ends on a cliffhanger, thus leaving the reader wanting more (and likely reading well into the night). Moving between WWII London and present day, the reader learns about the events, both accidental and intentional, that led up that fateful summer day in the 1960’s.
The characters, events, and locations are vividly depicted. The period details appear spot on, as WWII London feels properly antiquated when compared to Laurel’s modern London. The story is filled with twists and turns that leave the reader guessing until the stunning conclusion. The Secret Keeper is a must read for fans of her earlier work. If you a fan of good mystery or WWII-era fiction, this novel is well worth investing your time in. Bottom line: 4/5.
There is a scene in the novel where to of the characters try to order seafood, but are served a substitute of arctichokes instead. Thus, I am recommeding a pasta with artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, and toasted almonds.
Photos: Goodreads, Simply Recipes