Mum suggested ages ago that I should read something by her favourite author, Kate Morton, so as a dutiful daughter (hmm) I read The Lake House. I enjoyed the story, and also enjoyed talking about the book with Mum. The next thing I knew, The Secret Keeper turned up from under Mum and Dad’s Christmas tree for me. When I unwrapped my present, Mum mentioned that she hadn’t read this particular book, so would I please pass it on to her once I finished….
I loved the idyllic setting of The Lake House, which featured a mysteriously abandoned home and a story about the family who lived there a long time ago, and the woman who re-discovers the house. I remember the story as being a comfort read, with a disappointingly predictable twist at the end. (Mum unwillingly agreed that the twist was obvious).
The Secret Keeper also featured an idyllic moved house and past, and the story also moved back and forwards during time, although The Secret Keeper was told across three times during the character’s lives, namely WW2, the early 1960’s and the present. The story starts in the early 1960’s at a country house by a stream, a picnic being enjoyed by a happy family consisting of Mum, Dad, four daughters and a son, when a mysterious male visitor was murdered by Mum using a big knife.
In the present, Dorothy, the mother, is in her nineties and dying in hospital. Dorothy’s children are old too, although still working and successful in their fields. Laurel, who was a witness to the actual murder, decides that the time has come to find out why her mother committed the murder. Since Dorothy is asleep most of the time, and isn’t often coherent when she is awake, Laurel has to start asking questions of people from her mother’s past. She learns that the victim was a neighbour of her mother during wartime in London.
The story flips between Dorothy’s life in London during the war and Laurel’s present as she spends time with her sisters and brother caring for their mother, and trying to solve the mystery of the murder.
I expect I would have enjoyed this story more if I had waited longer in between reading this and The Lake House. I probably won’t read another Kate Morton book for some time, as I found The Secret Keeper too similar to The Lake House and guessed the twist by about half way through the novel. If I’m being really picky, a hard edit would also have seen some of the WW2 stuff disappear from the story without being missed. My biggest whinge was about the physical book itself which was uncomfortable to read because the book was too heavy and difficult to open. A story of this size should have been on a bigger page. My paperback edition was published by Allen & Unwin.
Anyway, I’ve finished the story and have set the book aside to give to Mum. Her birthday is coming up soon and I’m hoping she will see the funny side if I re-wrap The Secret Keeper for her.