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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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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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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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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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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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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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 November 2012
Kate Morton is not a novelist that I have read before. However, having been seduced by reviews of her latest, The Secret Keeper, I settled down to enjoy a long and involving story that follows a family mystery backwards and forwards through almost a century of British history. It has a sit up with a shock opening - in 1961 teenager Laurel witnesses her mother kill a stranger at their garden gate. Fifty years later, with her mother now close to death, Oscar-winning actress Laurel is driven by a compulsion to discover the truth behind this act. Why did the man, dismissed by police at the time as a criminal, greet her mother with her name?

The greater part of The Secret Keeper moves between 2011, the year of Laurel's quest, and 1941, a critical year in the life of her mother, Dorothy. The pages take us back to London during the height of the Blitz when young women such as Dorothy have to make a living in a city that is being ripped apart by night, whole streets and boroughs wiped out by continual bombing. This state of affairs, though, does mean that the rigid class system of the pre-war years is itself taking some blows, allowing Dorothy some freedom to follow her dreams, even as the bombs fall around her. We follow her life in the city, her friends and boyfriend, and meet the people that will dictate the future course of her life, including Vivien who, like Dorothy, has trauma in her life.

In the present day, Laurel, her sisters and brother slowly start to come to terms with the loss of their wonderful and exciting mother, uncovering little clues to the life they wish to hang on to in the secret places of Dorothy's house. It is clear that for Laurel, and for her brother, their own lives must wait until they can come to terms with what has happened. It would appear to Laurel that her mother is likewise waiting for the peace that this knowledge would bring.

The Secret Keeper gave me a fair amount of angst during the course of the week in which I read it. The writing is beautiful, the characters are elegantly allowed to grow and breathe and the settings (1941 and the Blitz, 1961, 2011 and flashbacks into earlier days) are vividly located. For the first couple of hundred pages I was gripped by it and mesmerised by the atmosphere.

All well and good, but at about halfway through I found the characters increasingly frustrating (and irritating). The exception was Laurel and I would turn the pages longing for a return to the present day and Laurel's hunt. The issue that had the most dramatic impact on my enjoyment of the novel, though, was that quite early on I had worked out all of the mysteries. From that point on I also found the storyline increasingly frustrating. I was disappointed by the predictability and the slow, slow circle-creeping narrative. Rarely have I urged a book to `get on with it!' quite as much. Beautiful prose it might be but when you have guessed how the story will unfold it does lose its shine. It's a little thing but I also thought that the ages of Laurel and her sisters were not easy to believe. Bearing in mind that they were all in their 60s and 70s, I found the depiction of sister Daphne as the glamorous TV weather reader eyebrow raising to say the least.

As a result, my appreciation of the novel's good points - and there are plenty - were unfortunately outweighed by relief at reaching its finish. But it's worth mentioning that I had to finish it. The Secret Keeper is an addictive read and I can see why so many readers love it even if it failed with me.
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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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on 3 November 2012
I read this whilst on half term holiday and found it difficult to put down - it really is a well-written story, and unfolds in front of you in full colour - almost like a film. The characters are believable, and the main plot line that threads it's way through the book had me drawn in hook, line, and sinker. I don't want to say too much and spoil the ending ...this book made me cry, which doesn't happen often. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys listening to a really good story teller.
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on 20 February 2013
There's an interesting story line and the author handles the different timelines well. Unfortunately, her main character Dolly is silly, shallow and greedy and most unlikeable. Perhaps Kate Morton intended this, so that her readers would be relieved when Laurel discovers the truth.

I agree with other reviewers that the book is too long. It drags in places - especially in the middle section and there's a lot of padding and unnecessary description. One that sticks in my mind (but there are many more), is where Laurel meets her brother in a restaurant. They finish their meal and he leans back against the wall. But it's not just any old wall - it's a 'charcoal grey brick wall'! Why use one adjective when you can use two or three for even the most mundane details? Unfortunately overuse of description detracted from the impetus of the story in many places. For example, when Laurel opened her mother's chest, the description goes on and on until I felt like shouting 'for goodness sakes get on with it'!

I decided to give it 3 stars because the story's good and after a bit of a boring middle section redeemed itself with a good twist towards the end. But for me, the book could have been a whole lot sharper and better paced with some good editing.
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