Posts Tagged ‘Kate Morton’

The Secret Keeper

Kate Morton

secret keeperDuring a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy.
Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, discover 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, the lengths people go to fulfill them, and the consequences they can have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers, and schemers told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

I love Kate Morton’s books so I was really pleased to see she had a new novel out. I have just finished reading it and now I’m in that place where you are satisfied but a little bereft that it’s all over.

This story, like her others, focuses on families, histories and hidden secrets. At the centre of the story is Laurel, now in her sixties and concerned about her dying mother. Her concern is not just at the illness Dorothy has and the thought of losing her, but also about the lack of resolution Laurel has for an incident she witnessed her mother commit when Laurel was just a teenager. Laurel can’t accept that she will never get the answers to her questions and embarks on a journey to discover the truth behind what happened.

The story is unfolded by both following Laurel on her quest and by flashbacks to the past, told through Dorothy’s eyes and subsequently that of some of the other main characters. I enjoy this method of story telling, keeping suspense going as you hop from one time to another alongside collecting snippets of information to gradually piece together the complete picture.

I also liked the way that all the characters are fully three dimensional people with flaws and positive attributes. It was fascinating to get to know them, as with real people, layer by layer and discover what is really underneath. In this light I was interested all the way through in Dorothy’s story as she seemed so different in the wartime (and before) to how Laurel remembers her as a mother. It was interesting to see if this was Laurel’s perception of her mother or if something had really happened to change Dorothy so much.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story, suffice to say I was gripped and couldn’t put it down. Kate’s writing is as gripping and atmospheric as ever and the images she creates of the wartime life, of Australia shimmering in heat, of misunderstandings between friends, of life seen through the eyes of both children and adults are as evocative as ever.

Verdict: I will be recommending this to everyone I talk about books with that’s for sure.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher:Mantle
Publication Date: October 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 483
Genre: Historical fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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The Distant Hours

Kate Morton

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret. Evacuated from London as a thirteen year old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe, and taken to live at Millderhurst Castle with the Blythe family. Fifty years later, Edie too is drawn to Milderhurst and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness. Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it …

Having read Kate Morton’s previous two novels and loved them I was delighted when someone at the book club I go to chose this for our next read. However for reasons I can’t remember I didn’t finish it in time for our discussion (sick children I suspect!) but went along anyway (needed to get away from sick children? ;-)). That meant that I found out the end of the story and consequently shelved the book for a while. I recently got it out again and was glad to have forgotten what happened and started again. The thing that I did remember from the previous time was how much I had enjoyed it!

Before I get into the story I want to say that my favourite thing about this book is the atmosphere created in it. Milderhurst Castle feels like a character itself, unchanging over time, but for the added secrets that it holds in its walls. It means something different to each of the people connected with it and its hold over them is undeniable. The descriptions of it show its beauty and its gothic eeriness. Kate’s writing brings it alive and the whole of the book is pervaded by a feeling of mystery and history.

The story itself moves back and forth between the present day with Edie Burchill and the early 1940’s with her mother Meredith. This dual thread way of writing has been done many times, but it is used to great effect to build up the mystery and to get to know all the characters involved in a much deeper and more complex way. It really enhances this story. The unresolved mystery at the centre of the story is what happened to Juniper to drive her to madness, and for Edie, the question of what was her mother’s part in it. The unravelling of it involves love stories, betrayal, revenge, ambition and stormy nights.

Edie is an interesting character, but as the story develops and we learn more about Meredith I found her the more intriguing. There is a fantastic exploration of family relationships through the novel and the interactions between Edie and Meredith and the way they have come to be as they are was riveting. I was absorbed by the way that a chain of events affects a person and the culmination of that making its way down the years to future generations.

This is echoed in the story of the sisters Blythe. The complicated relationship between the sisters again links back to the effects of a parent. Their Father, who doted on them and yet had to control and manipulate them, even beyond the grave. The secrecy and lies that are woven into their relationships mean that there are stories layered between stories. The fact that this is a family of writers and Edie is a publisher adds to the web.

Verdict: I adored this book, I couldn’t put it down its story is gripping and the descriptive writing is a joy to read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Pan
Publication Date: May 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 600
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own copy
Challenge: Oldest Book On The Shelf
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