The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
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During a picnic at her family's farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses a shocking crime, a crime that challenges everything she knows about her adored mother, Dorothy. Now, fifty years later, Laurel and her sisters are meeting at the farm to celebrate Dorothy's ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this is her last chance to discover the truth about that long-ago day, Laurel searches for answers that can only be found in Dorothy's past. Clue by clue, she traces a secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds thrown together in war-torn London - Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy - whose lives are forever after entwined.
Review by Brittany:
As a long-time fan of Morton's, I tend to pick her books up without much thought or without worrying about the blurb.
I found this one to be extra interesting because Morton created the character of Dorothy to be somewhat unlikeable. As the story progressed, I found myself often feeling disgusted with Dorothy and the way that she was. She seemed to me to be childish, often pretending to be someone else and constantly obsessed with seeming greater and richer than she was. Once Laurel starts piecing together the past, some of Dorothy's actions are explained away and much more understandable, although that didn't make me like her more.
In fact, I struggled to find very many redeeming characters in this novel at all. I either didn't like them or was indifferent. Jimmy was probably the only character who I enjoyed reading about, and at the end of the novel he proves himself to be quite a good, honorable man.
Alternating between Laurel in the present, trying to discover her mother's secrets, and Dolly's past, when the events take place, was an interesting way to write the book. I think it worked rather well for this story because, once the ending was revealed, it really pieced together the entire rest of the book, which is what a reader hopes will happen.
This one was a bit slow at parts for me, but overall I did enjoy it. Morton wrapped up the story well and created a nice well of secrets within the family, illustrating how war can change anyone.
Children could be self-centered like that, especially the happy ones.
Laurel knew quite a bit about keeping secrets. She also knew that was where the real people were found, hiding behind their black spots.
It struck Laurel now that even then she'd been too self-absorbed to wonder or ask what her mother was actually like at seventeen, what it was she'd longed for, and what mistakes she'd made that she was so anxious her daughter should not repeat.
In a family of daughters it was a happy thing not to be the worst.
...she'd felt infinitesimally small and alone and at the whim of the next wind that might blow.
Jimmy smiled and swallowed the lump that was always in his throat these days, of love balled together with a sadness he couldn't articulate...
He had the vague sense he was veering off course, saying too much, not saying the right things, but he couldn't seem to stop.
It struck Vivien that it was far easier just to say what people wanted to hear. What difference did it make anyway?
Jimmy admitted to taking a certain pleasure in upsetting her, in showing her things didn't always go her way.
At her lowest moments, Dolly had even started to wonder that he might not love her in quite the same way, that he might not think she was exceptional anymore.