The Nicolson family, a quite happy crew, travels to their usual summer party location in England. Laurel, the oldest child, who is in the throes of teenage angst, decides to separate herself from the rest of her family and hang out in a tree house. While there, she sees a man approaching the house. Her mother, Dorothy, goes out to meet the stranger and a shocking crime occurs. (To tell you what it is would be doing you a disservice.) Laurel is forced to deal with the aftermath of this crime, and it changes her perception of her family.
Laurel grows up to be an actress, and as her mother gets older, she seeks to try and unravel the mystery of what really happened on that summer day when her mother turned her world upside down. The unfolding of this mystery is at the heart of The Secret Keeper.
The reader travels back to World War 2 England when Dorothy was a young woman. We meet her and begin to get an understanding of what life was like for Dorothy, coming of age during this tense period of history. Her boyfriend, Jimmy, wants to marry her. And she is friends with the glamorous Vivian, who seems to be everything that Dorothy isn't—glamorous, poised, and rich. But all is not as it seems to be.
The novel alternates between present time and flashbacks to WW2, and in each chapter, the reader is given glimpses into the lives of the characters. In addition, inch by delicious inch, we creep closer to solving the mystery behind Dorothy and her motivation.
The characters of this novel are clearly drawn and fascinating. Even relatively minor characters, like Laurel’s sister Iris, a typical middle child, are fleshed out and presented in a way that makes for good reading. Each character, particularly in the flashback sections, is a world unto themselves—complicated, sometimes dark, but always engrossing.
There are quite a few surprises and twists in The Secret Keeper. I cannot say that each one of them was a complete surprise, but several of them were unexpected. I figured out the biggest twist (at the end of the book) long before I got there, but I still was reading quite quickly to read the confirmation of what I thought would happen.
The sense of place, the characters, the twists—everything worked together in this book to keep me up at night reading. It even made me wonder—who was my mother before I knew her? What secrets does she hold? I have no doubt, after reading The Secret Keeper, that she has a few that I still don’t know about. (No crimes, I hope!)
Amazing and very, very highly recommended. Now, I have to find the other Kate Morton books!
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina