The Secret Keeper is a story that shows how the decisions of one person can impact the next generation. Dorothy is strong-willed and hugely selfish in many ways, she is determined that she is meant for greatness and goes moves to London to be a companion to and rich elderly woman. At this time she meets the young and glamorous Vivian who is married to a rich but abusive man. Dorothy becomes obsessed with becoming Vivian’s friend.
In 2011 Laurel Nicolson is a successful English actress who is much beloved. She returns to her childhood home of Green Acres to celebrate her mother Dorothy’s, 90th birthday. Being back at Green Acres is hard for her and it brings back memories that she would rather forget, and some that are so muddled that she has to tease at them to try to figure them out. A clue to one of these persistent half-memories is a photograph of her mother and a mysterious woman named Vivian.
In 1959, 16-year-old Laurel is alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration. She watches a man walk up the long road to the farm and then sees him speaking to her mother. And then she witnesses a crime.
The Secret Keeper is like reading a giant jigsaw puzzle that you are trying to put together as someone else keeps moving the pieces. It’s a great, titillating read for lovers of stories that span time and that are driven by secrets.
This book had a slower pace at first than most of Kate Morton’s books but I think that setting the scene well helps to pay off the surprise ending.
Excerpt from The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
It was cruel, she supposed, just to let them keep hunting for her, but with the heatwave and the secret she was nursing, the effort of games – childish games at that – was just too much to muster. Besides, it was all part of the challenge and, as Daddy was always saying, fair was fair and they’d never learn if they didn’t try.
It wasn’t Laurel’s fault she was better at finding hiding places. They were younger than her, it was true, but it wasn’t as if they were babies. And anyway, she didn’t particularly want to be found. Not today. Not now. All she wanted to do was lie here and let the thin cotton of her dress flutter against her bare legs, while thoughts of him filled her mind. Billy.
She closed her eyes and his name sketched itself with cursive flair across the blackened lids. Neon, hot pink neon. Her skin prickled and she flipped the Spangle so its hollow centre balanced on the tip of her tongue. Billy Baxter. The way he stared at her over the top of his black sunglasses, the jagged lopsided smile, his dark teddy-boy hair . . . It had been instant, just as she’d known real love would be.
She and Shirley had stepped off the bus five Saturdays ago to find Billy and his friends smoking cigarettes on the dance hall steps. Their eyes had met and Laurel had thanked God she’d decided a weekend’s pay was fair exchange for a new pair of nylons—
‘Come on, Laurel.’ This was Iris, voice sagging with the day’s heat. ‘Play fair, why don’t you?’
Laurel closed her eyes tighter. They’d danced each dance together. The band had skiffled faster, her hair had loosened from the French roll she’d copied carefully from the cover of Bunty, her feet had ached, but still she’d kept on dancing. Not until Shirley, miffed at having been ignored, arrived aunt-like by her side and said the last bus home was leaving if Laurel cared to make her curfew (she, Shirley, was sure she didn’t mind either way) had she finally stopped. And then, as Shirley tapped her foot and Laurel said a flushed goodbye, Billy had grabbed her hand and pulled her towards him and something deep inside of Laurel had known with blinding clarity that this moment, this beautiful, starry moment, had been waiting for her all her life—
‘Oh, suit yourself.’ Iris’s tone was clipped now, cross. ‘But don’t blame me when there’s no birthday cake left.’
The sun had slipped past noon and a slice of heat fell through the tree-house window, firing Laurel’s inner eyelids cherry cola. She sat up but made no further move to leave her hiding spot. It was a decent threat – Laurel’s weakness for her mother’s Victoria sponge was legendary – but an idle one. Laurel knew very well that the cake knife lay forgotten on the kitchen table, missed amid the earlier chaos as the family gathered picnic baskets, rugs, fizzy lemonade, swimming towels, the new transistor, and burst, stream-bound, from the house. She knew because when she’d doubled back under the guise of hide-and-seek and sneaked inside the cool, dim house to fetch the package, she’d seen the knife glinting by the fruit bowl, red bow tied around its handle.