Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Review: The Secret Keeper

Author: Kate Morton
Publication Date: October 9, 2012
Publisher: Atria Books

1961 England. Laurel Nicolson is sixteen years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a familycelebration 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.
“Rural England, a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, a summer’s day at the start of the 1960’s. The house is unassuming: half-timbered, with white paint peeling gently on the western side and clematis scrambling up the plaster. The chimney pots are steaming, and you know, just by looking that there’s something tasty simmering on the stove top beneath. It’s something in the way the vegetable patch has been laid out, just so, at the back of the house, the proud gleam of the leadlight windows, the careful patching of the roofing tiles.” – Hardback Copy pg. 3
“When she was starting out as an actress, a well-known director had leaned over his script, straightened his Coke-bottle glasses, and told Laurel she hadn’t the looks to play leading roles. The advice had stung, and she’d waited and railed, and then spent hours catching herself accidentally on purpose in the mirror before hacking her long hair short in the grip of drunken bravura. But it had proven a “moment” in her career. She was a character actress. The director cast her as the leading lady’s sister, and she garnered her first rave reviews. People marveled at her ability to build characters from the inside out, to submerge herself and disappear beneath the skin of another person, but there was no trick to it; she merely bothered to learn the character’s secrets. Lauren knew quite a bit about keeping secrets. She also knew that was where the real people were found, hiding behind their black spots.” – Hardback Copy pg. 26 & 27
“Laurel closed the car door but didn’t follow her sisters through the gate. She planted her hands in her pockets and stood firm, taking in the entire picture – garden to cracked chimney pots and everything in between. The ledge over which they used to lower Daphne in the basket, the balcony where they’d hung the old bedroom curtains to form a proscenium arch, the attic room where Laurel taught herself to smoke.” – Hardback Copy pg. 41
“There was a gust of steam as Rose opened the oven to check on the raspberry cobbler, their mother’s trademark dessert. The sugary smell of warming fruit filled the air and Laurel closed her eyes.” – Hardback Copy pg. 62
Now no one shoot me when I tell them that this is my first book by Kate Morton. Am I still alive?! Ok, yes I know that I should have definitely picked up a book by Kate Morton before now, but I read this one and I know that it will inspire me to read more! I have read so many rave reviews about many of her books and I just didn’t want to feel left out anymore. Kate really has a knack for painting a truly gothic world full of secrets and mystery in this book. That is a characteristic that I read about in a lot of the different reviews on her books, so it must just be one of her trademarks. Each chapter, little by little, Kate unfolds all the secrets of the Nicholson family and especially the girls’ mother, Dorothy.
Laurel Nicholson witnessed her mother stab and kill a man that appeared at their doorstep when she was sixteen years old. She and her mother shared a secret about that day and what really happened when he arrived that they left out of the story for everyone else. This past memory continues to haunt Laurel even into her adult life, and when she returns to her childhood home she decides to investigate her mother’s past and learn just who she was before she became their “Ma.” Laurel was definitely the character that I loved to follow the most because she was the one that was piecing everything together like a gigantic puzzle. The chapters would alternate between her and her mother, Dorothy, and honestly sometimes I would skim Dorothy’s chapters because I felt like it was a lot of useless information and rambling.
I really enjoyed moments when all of the sisters were together, but it bothered me that Laurel had to carry this secret alone for all these years and that she never shared it with any of her sisters. The family dynamics that are built in this story are so touching and made me feel so comfortable while reading. So many memories were shared between the girls including the house and some memories they made with their mother. I cannot figure out why, but Dorothy’s character just bothered me the entire way through the book. Then I got to the end and figured out just exactly why I didn’t like her. The end came as such a shock to me, and I will tell you that if you plan to pick up this book, I know it’s over four hundred pages and really big, but reading every page until you find out the big secret is so worth it. I was so surprised and honestly NEVER would have guessed it!
This book and the mystery and hidden secrets built more and more chapter by chapter. Sometimes I felt warm in the company of sisters and sometimes I felt chills in the face of unknown secrets and hidden agendas. This book is most certainly a puzzle and a journey intermixed between the past life of Dorothy and the present life of her daughters and son, Gerry. I would recommend this book to almost anyone with a passion for reading because I know there is something here for everyone!
***Thank you to the publishers at Atria Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***


  1. I loooooove Kate Morton and I'm so glad that you enjoyed The Secret Keeper. Kate always manages to smack you in the face with the BIG REVEALS!
    Great review :)

  2. I've never read anything by Kate Morton either, but this one sounds really great! I'm going to add it to my TBR list. Thanks for sharing and for the great review!