Book Review: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper by Kate MortonI have read and enjoyed two of Kate Morton’s previous books. This new book sounded good and in a similar format as the other books. I liked it, but I didn’t love it, unfortunately.

The Secret Keeper: What it is about

From the publishers: “During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.”

The Secret Keeper: What I thought

The story starts strong with 16 year-old Laurel seeing a crime being committed by her mother. After that, there is a slightly confusing scene in the second world war of Laurel’s mother, Dorothy, and a friend, Vivian during a bombing in London. The scene is confusing, because the reader doesn’t have all the information yet. It wasn’t off-putting though and reading the scene back after finishing the book, everything fell into place.

I didn’t find the story completely convincing. Laurel’s mother was old and frail, but rather than going through great lengths to find out what her mother’s secret was, Laurel could have tried a bit harder at asking her mother.

I wasn’t sure about the order in which the story was told. That is, generally we first read a bit about the past and then about Laurel trying to find out what happened at that time. Because of that, I didn’t find the story too compelling, because the reader already knew what Laurel didn’t. There are a few “cliffhangers”. While this felt rather contrived, it did work to make me interested in the next part of the story!

While I could take or leave most of the book, I was really grabbed by the last quarter of the book. By then, there really was a mystery to be solved and I was actively thinking along. And close to the end, there is a shocking revelation, that changed my whole idea about the story (which is why I read some of the beginning again) and finally made me decide this was a good novel after all.


Rating: 4 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 496

First published: 2012 (Atria Books)

I got this book: for review from the publishers via Netgalley (ebook)

Genre: contemporary fiction, historical fiction


Have you read this book?

Did you enjoy it?

About Judith
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32 Responses to Book Review: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

  1. Chinoiseries says:

    Hm, it sounds a bit confusing, but it seems that the book redeems itself in the end. Good to know! I still have to read it 🙂

  2. I am not sure if I would like this, Judith, although the plot summary sounds promising!

  3. Lindsay says:

    I have loved her previous books, and still fancy reading this one, thanks for the honest review.

  4. I’ve tried two of Morton’s books and not been that impressed by either of them. I don’t think I’ll be trying any of her books again, but I’m sorry to hear this one was a bit disappointing for you.

  5. Charlie says:

    I’m unsure about the whole knowing it in advance thing, it can work sometimes, but only if the detective work, so to speak, is compelling. The ending sounds a bit like The House At Riverton, in the way that it makes the overall book better.

  6. Alice says:

    I really enjoyed The Secret Keeper, especially compared to Morton’s last novel which left em very disappointed. While I agree this isn’t Morton on top form (compared to her first two novels) I did find The Secret Keeper gripping, and found it difficult to put down.

    Completely agree that the last part of the novel was what kept me engaged, Morton really comes through with the goods with her conclusions.

  7. therelentlessreader says:

    I’ve seen a lot of differing opinions on this one. I’m sure I’ll check it out eventually 🙂

  8. Stephanie says:

    This sounds very interesting. I may give it a go, despite its weaknesses, especially since you said the ending is so good. 🙂

  9. Read it, reviewed it, liked it – did not find it confusing at all. I thought it was on par with the other Kate Morton books I’ve read. I like her style when I’m in the mood for a comfortable read by the fireplace, with some hot chocolate close by.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I loved Forgotten Garden….sorry this one isn’t as good. DARN…thanks for the heads up.

    Silver’s Reviews

  11. Mystica says:

    I like the setting of the story. the period of both World Wars is something I like reading about. This one is definitely for me.

  12. Kristen M. says:

    I just skimmed this review because I have the book here to read but your thoughts sound familiar to how I feel every time I read a Kate Morton book. They’re never perfect but always good enough that I pick up the next one!

  13. Lucybird says:

    It surprised me at the end too. I think this is my favourite Kate Morton to date

  14. Isi says:

    I’m reading some reviews about this book (which isn’t avaliable in Spain until march), and I think I’m going to read it, this week, in English.
    Some people say it’s the best novel by Kate Morton, but I’ve been told the same about all of her books. Nevertheless, I think I will like. The forgotten garden was great, I think she knows how to tell stories.

  15. JoV says:

    I read the first two books of Kate Morton and love them. She does have a knack in vacilitating between the past and present but her books are thrilling all the same. Glad this one is just as good! I think Kate Morton is a talented writer.

  16. Isi says:

    Hi again, Judith.
    First of all: I READ IT (in English!!!!!)
    And, secondly, I loved it.

    I have to say that I fell in love with Jimmy and also with the rest of characters, but a litte bit less.
    About the final shock, was like 8o
    And I couldn’t help crying about what happened finally and what Jimmy did at the end…. He was so cute!
    Well, I think I liked more than The forgotten garden, and I couldn’t stop reading everytime I had a free moment.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Isi, how nice you read this in English! And very nice that you loved it!

      Yes, the end was very good, I agree totally. For me the earlier parts of the book weren’t so good, but it’s great to hear that you couldn’t put the book away.

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