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393 of 403 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 October 2012
I was really pleased to get a pre-publication copy of The Secret Keeper. It's a huge book and I admit that I started it with a little trepidation. The story in Kate Morton's previous novel, The Distant Hours was really good, but overall I felt it was a little drawn out.

This story opens on a summer's day in the 1960s. Sixteen year old Lauren Nicholson is a witness to a crime that involves her mother, Dorothy. The police arrive and the matter is dealt with, but it's many years later before Laurel uncovers her mothers shady past and what led to that shocking event.
Dorothy's story goes back to the late 1930s. She leaves her family behind and goes to London. During wartime, Dorothy becomes involved with Jimmy, and comes into contact with Vivien, the wife of a once famous author. When Dorothy's, Jimmy's and Vivien's worlds collide, the tension in the story begins to mount.
In the present day, Laurel is back at the family home in Suffolk. Her frail mother is in hospital and the visits to see her are helping Laurel piece together the family mystery that's haunted her for years.

This book is a super read. It starts a tiny bit slow, but this is necessary to develop the plot. The story moves back and forth and becomes more intricate as it unfolds. The characters are vibrant and there is a wonderful sense of time and place, particularly in wartime London where the atmosphere and plot-line are tense.
Everything unravels in the latter pages and leads to a brilliant twist. The story certainly keeps the reader guessing and my guess was way off the mark.
Kate Morton has written a fantastic story here and I think it's her best yet.
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143 of 150 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2012
I have just finished reading this wonderful book this morning and have wiped the tears away now. Tears because the book has ended and also because I was so touched by certain aspects of the story. I very rarely cry at books but this one had me a few times.

I have loved all of Kate Morton's previous books. Even The Distant Hours, which received quite negative reviews. So I was eagerly awaiting the release of this novel and wasn't disappointed.

What a wonderful story. So beautifully well written, as always. I would say that it was pitched perfectly, were it not for the fact that I found it a little hard going and over descriptive at the beginning. If you find this too, stick with it; it will reward you!

I'm not one for outlining the plot in reviews; the above Amazon blurb is there for that. However, I would like to point out that the many twists and turns and the triple time frame narrative are all handled extremely skillfully and you need to keep reading to get the posed questions answered. Beautiful!

Also, talking of twists, there is rather a large twist that was all the more satisfying for me as I hadn't already worked it out. I usually always see the twist coming a mile away and, as, with hindsight, this one was quite clear, it is a great testament to the writer's skill that I didn't twig earlier. I did read back over several sections after 'the reveal' and kicked myself with a gratified smile.

Very lovely, beautifully written, well researched and enjoyable novel from a fantastic writer. Buy it! If you liked KM's other books, you'll love this. I will definitely be reading it again.

I have now started to re-read The Forgotten Garden.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 2012
Kate Morton has constructed a wonderful story, flitting between the present day, the 1960's and the war years. Her description, characterisation and skill in telling the story all make for an enthralling read. In particular, the links between the eras are so well thought out that she kept me reading long into the night even though I did not want the story to end. This is one of the best pieces of writing which I have read in a long time and I shall look out for other novels by Kate Morton. It deserves to become a classic.
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73 of 77 people found the following review helpful
Another superb read from Kate Morton this time set over three time periods, 1941,1961 and 2011 it starts in 1961 with Laurel, eldest daughter of Dorothy Nicholson witnessing a shocking event.

In 2011 with her mother reaching the end of her life in hospital Laurel decides she needs to re-examine that day and longs to find out more about her mother's early life. Her mother is also remembering the early days giving the reader a narrative of London during the Blitz.

As always Kate Morton draws crisp characters along with great descriptions of wartime life, based upon solid research that only occasionally intrudes through the storytelling, but rather blends seamlessly into Dorothy's life. The number of main characters is kept to a minimum with enough bit-players to give depth but not so many to confuse matters.

The book is split into four parts, with each chapter clearly stating the time period it relates to, this makes for easy clear reading and the tale rattles along as a good book should.

The end of the story doesn't disappoint, although for some I expect it may be just a little to neatly sewn together. I loved every moment of this book.
Another winner, I am already looking forward to Kate Morton's next book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2013
This started out very mundane - a story of a sulky teenager hiding out in a treehouse - but then led us back and forth through decades of her family history. The descriptions of life in Blitzed London were very good and all the characters became very real - including the complexity of Dorothy. The twist at the end was also very good. I really - to quote the youth of today - did not see that coming!

The trouble with Kindle books is you can't flick back and forth as easily with a "hard" book and there were times when I would have liked to have done this in order to clarify a point or the name of a character.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 November 2012
I am completely in awe of Kate Morton's evocative writing style and the intriguing mysteries that she manages to so skilfully weave within her dual-time narrative stories. When the opportunity to review The Secret Keeper came up, it's no exaggeration that I practically jumped at it. I also had really high hopes for it, having loved her writing in the past.

Despite some mixed reviews from some of the online blogs I frequent, which suggested that this wasn't as strong as her other books, I wasn't disappointed with this novel by any stretch of the imagination- which is to politely say, that I inhaled it. Yep. Couldn't put it down. I found this book to be a completely engrossing read, and to be honest, it's one of those books where every other one I pick up after it for a while might feel a bit `meh' in comparison.

Kate Morton does admittedly have a bit of a formula when it comes to her plots. That's not to say it's a bad thing, but at times the scenario can feel a bit like you've encountered it before, though in the end there's a spin on it and it always evolves into something wonderful and new. Just like here. Often, there's an old lady reflecting back on memories, a young daughter or granddaughter tracing some sort of family mystery that has been hidden for decades, romance and of course, the dual time narrative. This book has all of that and more, I'm pleased to say.

The plot follows the lives of three very different women, all of whom are inextricably linked by a shocking secret. The story starts in a rural village in 1960's Oxfordshire one hot summer's day, when teenager Laurel witnesses her mother plunging a knife into a strange mans chest, killing him instantly. Now in the present day, Laurel's mother is on her deathbed, yet Laurel is still haunted by the events of that terrible afternoon and the crime she witnessed, to which her mother always claimed was self defence- though Laurel knows that isn't entirely the truth... A mysterious photo in her mother's possessions leads Laurel to start facing up to some unanswered questions about her mother's past, in a journey that will lead her back to WWII and beyond.

I think this has to be my favourite Kate Morton book so far. The writing is hugely atmospheric with some wonderful scene-setting, whether it is WWII London during the Blitz, 1960's Oxfordshire or the present day. It is clear her research has been extensive as the level of detail is impeccable (but thankfully not too over the top) and feels completely authentic during all time periods. The small nods to the varying social attitudes at the times also felt realistic.

This is admittedly a long book, but I personally feel it was just the right length for all of the content and the themes addressed- and as a reader I became really drawn into the events. The balance seemed fair and equal footing was given to all of the different time threads, though I was more intrigued with the Vivien/Dorothy storyline than the present day.

There are some great little twists and turns in this story as well as some really gripping revelations that kept me turning the pages too. I was anticipating them on some level having experienced her previous books as well as picking up on subtle hints within the plot itself, but when they happened I still sat there saying `ooooh' because they were so well crafted and just worked so aptly. That to me is always the sign of a great storyteller. Pace, timing, characterisation- this book was never boring and I felt genuinely sad when it ended. There are characters to love and loathe and I really wanted to know how circumstances would turn out with all of them.

I wait with bated breath for what Kate Morton comes up with next. No joke. I would recommend this novel to absolutely anyone looking for a historical mystery/romance novel to sink their teeth into.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2012
I bought this when it was reduced down to 1.99 and thought I would risk buying it at that price although I didn't fancy the sound of the plot line but had enjoyed her previous books esp The Forgotten Garden which I can reread every year and still enjoy it! Anyway I am so glad i bought this and would have happily paid double that to read this wonderful story! As usual there is a mystery to solve from the past and it is handled so well by the author that the last section of the book will have you rereading previous sections as the clues are all there! The characters are so beautifully written that you really feel as though you know them even though your feelings are led in the direction the author wants you to go until all becomes clear at the end. Was up till late finishing this last night and cried at the end-this book stayed with me once I had finished and had problems sleeping with the characters and plot lines still going around in my head. The next book I read will have a lot to live up to!
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2012
As a huge fan of Kate Morton's work I was ecstatic to be sent a prepublication copy of her latest book to review. Wow ! ! What a read. I thought that "The Forgotten Garden" would definitely be her best novel. She could surely not surpass that. I was wrong. A big book. A big story.

The book opens in 1961,on an idyllic rural scene of a country farmhouse bathed in sunshine and a young family of four girls and their loving parents celebrating the birthday of their baby brother. Then something shocking happens in this blissful scene that will have repercussions down the years. The event is witnessed by the eldest daughter, Lauren and has a profound effect on her. Your attention is grabbed. In 2011, now a mature and internationally acclaimed actress, Lauren is prompted to delve into her mother, Dolly's early history by the discovery of a photo of her mother taken in 1941 with an unknown friend that neither she nor her sisters have seen before. At this point in the story, which had begun relatively slowly, I did wonder how such a seemingly simple plot could sustain a large book. Again I was very wrong.

The tale now becomes a very clever weaving of a look back at events in the mother, Dolly's life in 1938 and then1940 and 1941, with Lauren's continuing search in 2011. Huge skill has been needed to construct and progress the story through two simultaneous time zones. Kate Morton has pulled it off. I had to keep reminding myself that we, the readers, were privileged to know details of the mother's life of which her daughter was unaware. As these two parts of the story progress side by side the narrative gains pace to climax in a huge revelation which came as a massive surprise. As ever Kate Morton's research is meticulous, recreating war time London so evocatively and juxta positioning that dark and desperate period of misery against the peace and security of the country farm house in which the family had such a happy upbringing. This book grows on you. It begins quietly, idyllically, but ever so gradually builds to a huge momentum. There are moments to make you reflect, i.e. the eldest daughter as a grown woman says, "Perhaps all children are held captive in some part by their parent's past". The story should strike a cord with any of us who feel that there is something of a mystery in our not too distant past, lies that were perpetuated for the sake of appearances. But in this case, something far more serious than appearances is at stake. How many of us have tried to dig beneath the accepted version of our family's history and got nowhere. I can empathise with Laurel, not only being the same age, but having tried to understand a family secret and failed. The very best descriptive passages are of a little girl's life in the Australian Bush, which might possibly be autobiographical.

As I read I wondered who was the real heroin of this story and in fact how many heroines there were. By the end you are left in no doubt. It has been a real pleasure to immerse oneself in a book that is so well written, researched and crafted. I finished this novel on a high and my great regret is that I have now read it. The wait for the next Kate Morton book will seem interminable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2013
Lots has been reviewed on this site about this novel's excellence - I have read all of the Kate Mortons, and this does not disappoint.

But I wanted to review the actual book, which has been so lovingly thought through. Holding it in your hand is a pleasure. The pages of superb quality paper, the font of perfect size. And the finishing touch of an attached gold ribbon bookmark (in the hardback) is genius. I shall not be passing this one on anywhere!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2013
I've read all of Kate's books and couldn't put them down! This one was a bit harder to enjoy! The beginning was good as were the last few chapters but the middle dragged somewhat!
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