The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton: A Review
One thing about commuting that I actually enjoy is the time I get to read on my way to and from work. It's got me flying through books like I used to in high school. Well, two so far but it's only been three weeks so I call that a success. Our book for July in Literary Junkies was The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. I've wanted to read a few books by Kate for a while and I was thrilled when this ended up being a pick of the month. Check it out...
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.
What I Say
The Secret Keeper is a tale of regret and a deep need to identify with your past. Laurel Nicolson witnesses her mother kill a man when she's a teenager and as much as she tries to forget it, that moment haunts her for the rest of her life. So when her mother is on her deathbed, Laurel decides that it's time to finally figure out what happened that day. This search takes us into the lives of three people in the late '30s and early '40s: Dolly, Jimmy and Vivian.
Dolly is a dreamer who wanted to create her own life. She wanted to break away from the mold her family was content with setting her in and make something of herself. She wanted to be somebody and she would do anything to get it, even if that meant losing people she loved. The more we get to know Dolly, we realize that she is delusional and creates these stories that even she begins to believe. It took almost the entire novel for me to figure out which of her accounts were true and which were laced with fabrication.
Jimmy loves Dolly. It's that simple. He's a really good man who takes care of a father with dementia and works as hard as possible in order to build a life for him and Dolly. He stands up for people when he feels it's the right thing to do and he supports those who need help, even if there isn't much he can offer. Jimmy bends over backwards for Dolly time and time again but I don't believe she ever treats him as good as he deserves.
Vivian is a shy woman who lost her parents in a tragic accident as a child. She was unwanted for a long period of time and she had this guilt around her family's death she couldn't be rid of. She entered into a marriage with a man who by all appearances seemed perfect and she helped out in the war as much as she could while secretly volunteering at an orphan's hospital.
Dolly, Jimmy and Vivian end up in a very dangerous situation with love triangles, jealousy and desperation involved. Someone dies, someone lives and someone reinvents who they are. The story shows you what people are capable of when they're desperate. It shows you what they're capable when they're in love too deep and it shows you what they're capable of when they have nothing to live for. There are twists and turns and as soon as you think you know what the mystery is, you realize you're wrong. Each piece of the puzzle brings new questions until the climactic ending that will leave you speechless.
The Secret Keeper is one of my favorite books. It drags on for a bit in the fist half making it a slower read than necessary but if you stick with it, the story is unforgettable. You will pick a side and stick to it. You will sympathize with characters and then detest them and then love them again. It's an emotional roller coaster that will leave you curious about your own family history. I know I am and instead of waiting around like Laurel did, I'm going to start learning about mine now.
And now I'd like to introduce you to one of my lovely sponsors. Her name is Holly and she's from Sweet, Sassy Southern Belle.