Laurel Nicholson is a famous English actress, who witnessed something terrible as a sixteen year old. It is to Morton’s credit that The Secret Keeper never once feels like more effort than it is worth. Even so, there were some things about the novel and the plot which felt a little contrived. This entry was posted in Arts, Books and tagged book review, books, kate morton, literature, mantle, mystery, Review, the secret keeper. I pick them up with caution, wondering if the author really needed so many words to tell the story. Now, grown up and returning to her childhood home to help care for her mother during her mother’s final few weeks of life, Laurel becomes determined to unravel the secrets hidden in her mother’s past. The writing is sharp, with enough attention to detail to paint a picture in the reader’s mind, without getting carried away and thinking that the reader needs to know the contours of every leaf on every mentioned tree. Laurel never slips into a caricature or a stereotype of what it means to be a famous actress, and I found myself drawn to Laurel because of her quest to discover more about who her mother used to be, and not because of her occupation.


There are several twists and turns which keep the reader guessing and, while it was refreshing to find the novel steering away from where I thought Morton was leading towards (an ending I would have found very disappointing after enjoying the rest of the book), I felt like I had to stretch my imagination to be really convinced by the solved mystery. The contrast between past and present, together with the characterisation and the vivid settings Morton creates in the reader’s mind, bring this book to life.
I wonder if the writer simply wished to indulge themselves by constructing a five-hundred page tome, filling it every little detail, and leaving nothing for the reader to discover for themselves. Set predominately in England in the present day and during the London Blitz in World War II, Morton seamlessly weaves together past and present, keeping the reader guessing the whole way through the novel.
I usually struggle with books which jump back and forth between different time periods, but Morton immerses the reader in the 1940s without self-consciously alluding to the fact that it is the 1940s. It is easy to forget for pages at a time that Laurel is one of England’s most famous actresses, and so it should be. There is no such thing as perfection, but are there some things you keep from those you love, in order to protect them? I often pick up books and think to myself that the story could have been written in half the number of words, and be so much better for it.


The details of the time period come through in the narrative, rather than long passages which explain to the reader how things were back then. The intrigue in this story is not Laurel’s occupation; it is the mystery which envelops her family. While Morton did explain the reasoning behind the way this particular character acted, the explanation felt more like a convenient solution than a logical explanation.
Yet it is clear from the beginning of The Secret Keeper that Kate Morton hasn’t expelled unnecessary words onto the page. This novel cleverly explores the past and complicated relationships which shape and mould someone’s future self, and explores how much of your past self you should leave behind, and how much you should take with you into the present. At over five-hundred pages, it’s a big book, but with such an ambitious and captivating story, it’s a credit to the author that she didn’t exceed one thousand pages in crafting it.



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