Friday, January 11, 2013

The Secret Keeper

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

My review, originally shared November 30, 2012:

Kate Morton is a beautiful writer. That is what stands out to me the most about this book, which also has so many other strengths on which to recommend it.

The Secret Keeper flips back and forth between mother Dorothy as a young woman in 1941 London and her daughter, Laurel, a moderately famous character actress in 2011. Present-day Dorothy is in the hospital near the end, and Laurel is forced to remember a horrific incident she witnessed as a teenager. As Dorothy struggles in and out of consciousness and lucidity, Laurel determines to solve the mystery of what she saw her mother do one summer day in the sixties.

Every significant character in this book was fascinating, and the interactions between them were equally so. Morton's grasp of psychology and her realistic portrayal of how different people perceive and grapple with their worlds are phenomenal. Scenes are often viewed through the perspectives of multiple characters, allowing the reader to guess and understand in pace with the people in the story.

One character in particular comes to light gradually as the book unfolds, and I felt that the way the others (and the reader) begin to piece the inconsistencies together was particularly well-done. I have a person with a similar personality in my life, and the guessing and realizing process in The Secret Keeper rang completely true against my own experience. This aspect of the book was masterfully done.

I had only two real complaints about the book: First, Laurel's sisters were sketched-in compared to the supporting WWII characters. They flitted in and out of the 2011 scenes and each was given a trait by which to "identify" her, but they felt very dim compared to the rest of the cast. Second, the constant jumping around between perspectives and time period was frustrating at times. There were multitudes of mini-cliffhangers. They kept me guessing and rushing on through the book, but they also got a tad tiresome after a couple of hundred pages.

Those two minor criticisms do not diminish my overall impression of the book, however. I enjoyed this work thoroughly and highly recommend it to readers who enjoy thoughtful character studies. Observers of human nature who like a puzzle and have the patience to work it out through several hundred pages of beautifully-written prose will find another winner here from Kate Morton.

Stars: 5

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