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Review: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Fascinating novel with a telegraphed ending.

Laurel Nicolson is hiding from her family, savoring a few private moments. She has a secret; she is running away to London to become an actress and in love with the most exciting boy Laurel has ever met. Doubting that her happy, but boring parents would understand, she feels as if lit from the inside, a comet streaking across the sky. She soon learns that life is not as simple and boring as it seems when her mother, Dorothy, stabs a man with the heirloom cake knife Mum has come to fetch.

 At the age of sixty, Laurel returns home to see her dying mother, now 90, and to discover her mother’s past. Laurel is a successful actress and her mother is still a mystery. What she finds is passion and betrayal amid the ruins of World War II, and her mother’s secrets.

 Kate Morton begins by taking Laurel Nicolson to the edge of a precipice and forcing her to jump into the unknown at the heart of her family and herself. The Secret Keeper is a generational and historical novel with seemingly simple characters that are far from simple. From Laurel’s desire to act and become someone else, to bring words into life on the stage, to Laurel’s model mother, she of diapers and birthday cakes and happy families, a woman with a very different past, Morton sets the stage with slowly revealed secrets, betrayals, and truth.

 Jumping back and forth between the 1960s, the war years and after war of the 1940s and 1950s, and the present day, Morton lays down layer upon layer of lush descriptions of life in England and life lived vibrantly among the ruins of the Second World War with lyric writing and subtle depth. While Morton meant to surprise the reader with a twist at the end of The Secret Keeper, she fails, telegraphing the ending near the beginning of the novel.

The Secret Keeper is a sumptuous historical novel rife with the minute details of a happy family and a teenager longing to escape to a more exciting life where she can escape the mundane world she comes from in order to feel the passion and excitement of a life she is sure her parents could not possibly have ever felt. Mortons lays bare the hidden niches of the past and of the heart that make this story hard to put down and even more difficult to forget.