269 of 287 people found the following review helpful
It was raining, cold and damp the day I started to read Kate Morton's latest book - The Secret Keeper. And the perfect day to snuggle in to my favourite chair and lose myself in Morton's absolutely wonderful storytelling.
The prologue of The Secret Keeper is a show stopper it will hook you and the tale will keep you enthralled until you turn the last page. Early 1960's England. Sixteen year old Laurel lives an idyllic life with her beloved mother, father, her three sisters and brother in an isolated house in the countryside - until the day a stranger surprises their mother outside their home. Laurel, hidden in a treehouse, witnesses this meeting - and it's shocking outcome. And although life carries on afterwards, there's an unmistakable rift in the fabric of their lives.
"There were moments, Laurel solemnly believed, in which a person reached a crossroads; when something happened, out of the blue to change the course of life's events."
Fast forward to 2011. The siblings are called back to Greenacres Farm; their mother Dorothy is approaching her 90th birthday and her health is not good. Laurel sees these final days as her last opportunity to get answers from her mother as to what happened that day over fifty years ago.
"Not about Ma. I mean that young woman. She was a different person back then, with a whole other life we know nothing about. Do you ever wonder about her, about what she wanted, how she felt about things - Laurel sneaked a glance at her sister - the sorts of secrets she kept?
Morton again effectively uses her technique of past and present narratives to tell Dorothy's story. We meet her in 1941 as 'Dolly', a vivacious seventeen year old girl with dreams and ambitions. I found myself immersed in the past as Morton sets the scene and tone of wartime England perfectly. I was completely captured by Doll's life, drawn in and on tenter hooks to see what happened next. And just at a crucial point, the narrative jumps forward to the present day.
Laurel is determined to piece together the truth from the cryptic sentences and words her mother murmurs. Between those and the contents of an attic trunk, she and her brother pursue the past. We, as readers, are of course privy to more as we follow Dolly back to the 1940's and the events that lead up to that fateful day outside the farmhouse.
I was so conflicted about Dorothy/Dolly - the woman the siblings know is so far removed from the Dolly of the war years. Which incarnation is true? And then a third narrative from the past is added in the last bit of the book. And this is, of course, when I stopped looking at the clock, because there was no way I was going to bed without knowing the ending.
Oh, the ending! Morton has done it in previous books - caught me unawares in the final pages. She's done it again in The Secret Keeper - the ending has a fantastic twist. I went back and re-read earlier passages with a different eye.
Morton's writing is rich and atmospheric, with a bit of a gothic feel. The story builds slowly and deliciously, with layer upon layer peeled away as secrets are revealed over the course of 450 pages.
Kate Morton has another bestseller on her hands with The Secret Keeper - and it's one you'll want to get your hands on! It releases today. Highly, highly recommended.
44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2012
If I could give this book 10 stars, I would. I have anticipated the release of Kate Morton's latest book for what seems like forever. I was not disappointed. Until now, The Forgotten Garden was my favorite-but no longer. I won't give a synopsis since others already have. I'll just say that I loved every minute I spent reading this novel and haven't stopped thinking about the characters all day. I don't usually read a book a second time, but I feel certain I will do it this time. My only regret is that I finished it too fast-but I read late into the night because I just couldn't stop. I had read in another review that there was a surprise ending and thought I'd figured it out-but I was wrong and didn't see it coming! Kate Morton is in a class all by herself.
83 of 95 people found the following review helpful
Set alternately between the present and the past, much of this mystery novel takes place in London during the Blitz, when the Luftwaffe bombed the UK for fifty-seven consecutive nights, killing over 40,000 civilians. Laurel Nicholson, a successful actress in her sixties, reflects back to her teen years in the 1960's and a crime she witnessed her mother, Dorothy (now ninety and dying), commit outside their Greenacres farmhouse.
The Blitz years' sections belong to Dorothy, which Laurel pieces together from scraps of memorabilia that her mother possesses. It opens up to the reader as Dorothy's story, primarily. As Laurel and her siblings gather for Dorothy's last days, the reader follows the trail of clues revealed through memories, inquiry, and Laurel's amateur sleuthing. As the pages turn, we get more involved and intrigued by the intertwined lives of Dorothy, a woman from Dorothy's past named Vivien (and Vivien's husband, Henry Jenkins), and Dorothy's former beau, Jimmy.
The most engaging aspect of this book is the smooth narrative and the intimate voices of the past and present. Morton creates characters that stand out, especially those from the WW II period. Dorothy is a complex woman trying to carve a future from the fear and impermanence that wartime creates. You can fairly hear the explosions in the background. Vivien is an enigmatic woman who never ceases to pique the reader's interest, and her husband, Henry, the celebrated author, adds to the curiosity. Jimmy, the photographer and Dorothy's love interest, is the moral center.
What kind of relationship did Dorothy and Vivien have? Were they friends, or adversaries, or mere acquaintances? There's a photo of them standing together, emanating defiance and daring. But the more the photo is brought to light, the more the women in the picture elude Laurel.
Laurel is driven and defined by the answers she seeks more than her life as an actress, which is secondary to the story. Although there is a murder mystery, it reads as a family saga. She decides to engage her scientist brother, who was there when the tragedy happened, (in his mother's arms--as a toddler) to help her solve the answer to their mother's secret.
But first, Laurel has to tell him how she witnessed the scene from her hiding place in the tree house, watching while her mother placed the heirloom knife next to the birthday cake, readying for a family celebration, while Laurel dreamed the dreams of a typical yet gifted sixteen-year-old, secluded from the main action of her family and the outsider who intruded.
As a family and historical drama, it was often engrossing. However, Morton did not surprise me with the big disclosures, or catch me off guard, although she clearly intended to keep us guessing. It was less about my fortuitous abilities and more about Morton's transparency. I read a review of her first book that stated she tipped her hand too soon and too conspicuously, which is done here, also. It is the one trait that tends to undermine an otherwise very pleasant read, a book that fits well with a cozy, plush chair next to a crackling fire on a damp day with a cup of hot English tea warming your hands.
69 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2012
Read my full review @ [...]
My opinion: I love me some Kate Morton and have read each and every one of her books. Hands down, I consider her to be one of the most original authors I have read. She has continued this tradition of high quality writing in The Secret Keeper. Morton has a history of incredibly strong yet approachable character development. Yet, she has the capabilities to write with engrossing storylines full of twists that leave the readers with a "WTH just happened?" moments.
I was sucked into this book immediately and ended up reading a 450+ page book in several hours. I absolutely couldn't put it down and consider this to be Morton's best book to date.
On a side note, I received this book from Atria Books as an ebook for review. In the future, I will wait for Morton's books to come out in print as I consider them to be special treats. I didn't like the formatting of the ebook and feel that it did distract somewhat from the story. So, make the investment and grab the book in print. It is well worth the extra couple of bucks!
42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2013
Let me start by saying I very rarely will give a book a one star rating. It is unusual that I will make it through a whole book without finding a redeeming quality for it. I had to read this book as part of a book club and was pleased as a) I've heard a lot of noise about Kate Morton b) I've been wanting to read more Aussie literature. Unfortunately I very much disliked this book. I found the language and literary techniques to be contrived and immature. Morton loves her similes within similes and metaphors galore in needless places. I struggled to believe the protagonist was a real person/lived in the UK or was even worth reading about. I found all of the characters to be weak but with horribly cliched 'hidden' qualities about them to make you either like them or dislike them but I found all of this so unconvincing I just disliked the whole book. I am surprised that, in reading the reviews, people felt so grabbed by Dolly's story and then so shocked and pleased with the ending. I genuinely spent the whole book waiting for 'the hook' that never came.
Others have commented about Morton's superfluous use of words and scene setting. I completely agree. I felt although she had been given a word count and was desperately padding thought the book to reach that goal. The amount of times we would be reading about Dolly's thoughts, then she would verbalise the thoughts and then we would shoot to another person's perspective who would be either thinking or discussing Dolly's thoughts for the third time was staggering and unnecessary. A disappointment for me-I feel like I've really missed out as I am,most definitely, in the minority having read reviews here and on Good Reads. No more Kate Morton for me.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2012
Wow, I don't even know where to begin. This book is amazing to say the least! It took me a little while to get through the almost 600 pages, but they were needed to unravel the mystery that is Dorothy Nicholson. If this review seems a little vague, it is because I don't want to give away any spoilers; there are just so many events along the way.
We start in 1961; Laurel is a 16 year old teenager hiding in the childhood tree house to escape from her sisters. Her Mother, Dorothy comes looking for the cake knife with her baby brother Gerry. Laurel is frozen in shock when she witnesses the most horrific crime. Laurel and her mother are the only people that know what truly happened on that day.
Dorothy Nicholson is the best Mother any child could have; she is so creative and full of fun. The children are never without a story. Now in the present and Dorothy is in hospital, she is frail, old and dying. Laurel is visiting with Dorothy and the mystery of the crime is still fresh in her mind. Her Mother is muttering about mistakes and regrets. Laurel cannot forget what happened on that fateful day back in 1961 and decides to find out why it happened and how. Laurel takes it upon herself to investigate her Mother's past. Her brother decides to help and they both go on the hunt.
Going back to 1941; WW2 is in full swing and Dorothy has left her parents and brother behind to find her destiny in London. Dorothy has a boyfriend, a job and then meets the Lady across the road, Vivien. Vivien is the friend that can help Dorothy go places in society. Horrible things start to happen to Dorothy, sad news and betrayal. Dorothy seeks revenge. This revenge is a plan; things don't go right and Dorothy has to flee.
What happened to Dorothy's boyfriend Jimmy? What is the betrayal that makes Dorothy want revenge? What makes Dorothy commit the crime that ruined Laurel's childhood? Who is Dorothy from 1941? Can Laurel unravel the mystery that is her Mother?
The whole story flows along beautifully, travelling from 1941 to 1961 to 2011 finding all the clues to Dorothy's past. This is such a beautiful story and the twists along the way are so shocking you are left speechless. The historical part of the book is amazing and in such detail, right down to the clothes and attitudes of the day. Full of action, suspense, romance, fun and the tissues are needed (well for me anyway). This is the first book I've read by this author and I am stunned. I will certainly be picking up her others.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
The Secret Keeper is the fourth novel from popular Australian author Kate Morton, whose previous books such as the The House At Riverton and The Forgotten Garden, have enjoyed international success.
In the Secret Keeper, Morton grabs the reader's attention with the first chapter as sixteen year old Laurel witnesses a tragic altercation between her mother and a stranger. Nearly fifty years later Laurel's latent curiosity prompts her to investigate Dorothy's past, inspired by an inscription in a copy of a Peter Pan, a photo of Dolly linking arms with a friend, Vivian, and the vague whispers of her dying mother, slowly piecing together an extraordinary story.
As the narrative shifts between Laurel's search into her mother's past in present-day England to London during the Blitz, the reader is witness to Dorothy's life. A headstrong and vivacious teenager, Dolly flees her staid family to make a life for herself in London, certain she is destined to become something special. She imagines having a life of luxury, social standing and wealth, like that enjoyed by Vivian Jenkins, which seems possible when she becomes the companion of the rich, eccentric and elderly, Lady Gwendolyn but when Dolly's dreams sour, she is devastated. Despite the adoration of her boyfriend, Jimmy, Dolly concocts a plan to claim what she believes is her destiny, triggering a cascade of events that lead to tragedy.
In a vividly drawn setting, Morton creates a cast of intriguing, believable characters who are motivated by wistful dreams and dark secrets. As their relationships unraveled and the plot grew more intricate I was drawn into the twists and turns of the story, that leads to a stunning conclusion that will take most readers by surprise.
Finely crafted, The Secret Keeper is both an engrossing mystery and a sweeping historical saga. A compelling tale of love, loss and betrayal this is a wonderful read from a gifted storyteller.
69 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2012
I was so eager to read this book and once I did, I felt very let down.
I have read all of Kate Morton's other books and I adore them. But this book left me wanting to call the author and ask what happened? It seemed, with all the back and forth between past and present key character development was left behind. And that's just sad because this book has bones of something great.
The moments when this book is good it is 5-star, but the other 50% of the book not so much. My guess is, to create the twist at the end Morton felt it was necessary to build in all the extra pages with that 50%. To be honest, I started skimming through that 50%. I spent my time enjoying the main characters! I would put Laurel & Gerry in the 50%. In my opinion the book could have done without them. Dolly, Mrs G, Vivian, Jimmy, the treehouse & the orphanage --- The best story lines! Even that tattered white fur coat had a better story line than that the 50%!
I'm still a fan of Kate Morton. But your money is better spent reading another book of hers. Especially The House at Riverton - That's a great read. : )
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2012
Every family has secrets, but few are as disturbing as the one kept by the Nicolson family. One beautiful summer afternoon, sixteen-year-old Laurel watched her mother kill a man in cold blood. Now, fifty year later as her mother lies dying, Laurel decides to unravel the events leading up to that fateful day.
The Secret Keeper is a story about the power of secrets and their cost, a mix of history, mystery and family drama. The storyline moves between 2011 Suffolk and 1941 London, slowing interweaving to create a compelling tale of ambition, deception and unexpected redemption.
I really enjoyed this book. It starts out sedately, but it doesn't take long to become completely immersed in Laurel's search for answers. I finished the last 200 pages in one go and was just blown away by the surprise ending. The characters are well drawn - sometimes sympathetic, sometimes utterly maddening, and not quickly forgotten.
Kate Morton has penned an enjoyable and entertaining read. It's also thought-provoking. We tend to see our mothers and fathers not as individuals but rather as parental units devoid of passion. And yet we are shaped by our parents' often unspoken past. This book might well prompt you to examine your own family dynamic.
Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of this book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2013
I have read some wonderful Kate Morton books- The Forgotten Garden being my favorite. This is my least favorite.
The story itself is not interesting, and the text is verbose and flowery, I felt it was padded. Oh the excitement of a discovery- mid conversation, we switch to how someone feels, some more history and then back to the conversation and discovery. This book was maddening. Endless minueta, repetitive descriptions.
The characters were unlikeable... especially Dolly.
Dolly- Who could like someone that seems to have two personalities, vain, and potentially bi-polar?
Jimmy who was extraordinarily nice and blind to realities
Vivian who was no voice until towards the end of the book, and then is the victim.
Laurel- Wishy washy character
Flower Sisters- extraneous and unlikeable
Gerry- If we have to hear how smart his is, brilliant and irresponsible again.... and again.
The whole beginning of the book, the details of Dolly's life, really just did not belong in this book. It was a sidewinder and it took up most of the beginning of the book.
The ending - with the flip flopping between years- I generally like, in this book it was used as a way to thicken the book. Why did she finally roll Gerry into it, so she could receive a phone call from him on a payphone, but wait, its a payphone, and Gerry can't tell her all that he found out because he has not enough coins on him. CLICK- So that discovery will come up later, with lots of language about Gerry and him being so brilliant but irresponsible.
This book was a disappointment, although I will definitely read the last Kate Morton book, so I can say I've read them all. I am holding out hope for it.