The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton


I managed to read an extra book before the end of the year, bringing my total for 2016 to 31. Yay!

Having enjoyed Kate Morton’s The Lake House at the start of this year, I thought I would end the year with one of her books too. A year of reading, book-ended by Kate Morton.

The Secret Keeper was a great relaxing holiday read. Like The Lake House, it was ‘perfectly resolved’ in the end. A little too perfectly almost, in that it was quite unrealistic. But ah well. As I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for happy endings, so I’m okay with it.

The plot of this book was also similar to The Lake House. We find our main protagonist in present-day context trying to piece together a mystery that occurred decades ago.

In a nutshell: When she was 16 years old Laurel Nicolson witnessed a strange man walk up the driveway, startle her mother, and then her mother stab him to death with a knife. Pretty heavy stuff. Decades later, Laurel’s mother Dorothy is in her 90s and nearing the end of her life, but Laurel still has questions about what happened that day.

The narrative switches back and forth between present day Laurel trying to piece together the mystery, and Dorothy Smitham’s early life, what led to her stabbing a man to his death.

Morton writes in beautiful, ambling, nostalgic prose. At one point, I almost think she admits to this being her preferred style of writing:

The sort of home life that was written about by sentimental novelists in the type of books branded nostalgic by critics. (Until that whole business with the knife. That’s more like it, the critics would’ve puffed.)

Is this a revelation of Morton’s own experience with critics? Is this why two out of the two novels I’ve read of hers have been beautifully nostalgic with a twist of violence?

Anyway, her writing is gorgeous. Take this passage:

The sun had slipped past noon and a slice of heat feel through the tree-house window, firing Laurel’s inner eyelids cherry cola.

This description of the setting perfectly suits what is going on: Laurel’s family is having a picnic. There has just been reference to cake. Everything sounds so delicious about the scene, from the ‘cherry cola’ eyelids to the ‘slice’ of sun.

There’s also a wee little spark of humour from time to time that made me giggle out loud while reading. Take this part when Laurel is visiting her aged mother in hospital:

‘You’re in luck,’ the sour nurse told Laurel when she arrived the next morning, managing to make it sound a regrettable state of affairs. ‘She’s up and in fine fettle. Last week’s party tired her, you know, but visits from family seem to do them the world of good. Just try not to excite her too much.’

Laurel abandoned plans for a rousing session of Irish dancing and started down the beige hallway.

Hah! What a bright and simple line of sarcasm that gives colour to a dank hospital scene, showing how imagination and thought brings wit and life to… well, life.

Yep, this was a nice book to read. The Secret Keeper is a keeper.

(Apparently I sign off with lame things like that now.)


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