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The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton: A Book Review

The Secret Keeper
Author: Kate Morton
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery & Suspense
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: 2012
Pages: 597
Source: Personal collection
Synopsis: From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Distant Hours, The Forgotten Garden, and The House at Riverton, a spellbinding new novel filled with mystery, thievery, murder, and enduring love. 

     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.

     My Review: At a summer party, sixteen year-old Laurel witnesses her mother, Dorothy, killing a man. Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful actress, yet that day still haunts her. There are still many questions that her curious mind wants to know. Her chance arrives at her mother’s ninetieth birthday. Laurel searches into Dorothy’s past to understand her motives for killing a stranger. This novel takes us into two time periods, Modern day and pre-WWII era, in an attempt for readers to understand Dorothy.

     I was really looking forward to reading this book because I adored Kate Morton’s The Lake House. As soon as I bought The Secret Keeper, I began to read the first pages. I was hoping that this novel would give me a few days of an enjoyable read during a lazy afternoon. However, because of the dragging plot, I found myself spending two years to get through this book. Reading this didn’t seem like a pleasure anymore. Instead, it became a chore, and I dreaded opening the pages.

    Besides the dragging plot, I would have enjoyed this story more if I liked the characters. I really like Laurel. She was very sensible and also very imaginative. She had a strong head on her shoulders. I could relate to Laurel for she had been haunted by the terrifying scene and was curious to know why her mother killed him. I liked the modern storyline better than the historical aspect. I really disliked Dorothy. She was manipulative and selfish. She did horrible things to her friends. I hated reading Dorothy’s parts and contemplated skipping them, but I didn’t because they may be important in the future. Instead, I read with bored interest, and I learned that most of her storyline didn’t matter in the end. 

     Overall, this story is about family, friendship, and secrets. It is about a daughter who wants to understand her mother. The characters were not very fleshed out. Most of them were one-dimensional. The story dragged, reminiscent of a Sunday afternoon. I think the novel should have been shortened by at least hundred and fifty pages because the middle and Dorothy's storyline was mostly filler. The mystery was predictable, and the reader could see it many miles away. Thus, The Secret Keeper was a disappointing read. I was really ecstatic to finally be done with this novel. I have bought all of Kate Morton’s novels on the same day, and was really looking forward to having a Kate Morton marathon, but since this book took me two years, I am very hesitant to pick another of her books right up. However, I really did love The Lake House, and Kate Morton has interesting ideas, and can write beautiful sentences, so maybe I’ll pick up another book of hers. It will have to be very much later because I have to get rid of the bitter taste in my mouth. The Secret Keeper may appeal to readers of Susanna Kearsley, Hannah Richell, and Chris Bohjalian.

Rating: 2½ out of 5 stars

Here is the official book trailer for Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper:



This is a video of Kate Morton talking about her novel, The Secret Keeper:

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