1961 England. Laurel Nicolson is sixteen years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime.
Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to Green Acres for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by memories and questions she has not thought about for decades. She decides to find out the truth about the events of that summer day and lay to rest her own feelings of guilt. One photograph, of her mother and a woman Laurel has never met, called Vivian, is her first clue.
The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths some people go to fulfill them, and the strange consequences they sometimes have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers and schemers, play-acting and deception told against a backdrop of events that changed the world.
I was keen to get stuck in to this book after I heard Kate Morton talking about it at Joondalup Library back in November, but I forced myself to wait until Christmas so I had enough time. I loved The Shifting Fog and the Forgotten Garden, and in this, Kate’s fourth novel, there are more intriguing characters, a few superb secrets that last all the way through, and effortless shifts of character perspectives, which I so enjoy in stories.
There is a delicacy to Kate’s language that I love. She doesn’t fill a sentence unnecessarily, but on so many occasions her word choice enhances her descriptions beautifully. As as result it’s easy to get lost in her gentle style of storytelling. I was absorbed into the characters’ stories – I went over all the options in my mind and so I did guess some of the big twists and turns, but I never settled on anything with too much certainty for it to spoil the intrigue for me. The novel really brings the Blitz to life as well. (I hadn’t realised just how many bombs were dropped on London until I read an article in the Daily Mail about a month ago – the word Blitz really does sum it up.)
My only criticism, being very nit-picking, is that I found it extremely convenient that Laurel and Gerry could research so much of their mother’s past because everyone involved seemed to have had their diaries and letters placed in museum archives. But this is a very small quibble, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Keeper. You can find out more about all Kate’s books at www.katemorton.com.
I’m counting this as one of my reads for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013.