The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper by Kate MortonBlurb

1961: On a sweltering summer’s day, while her family picnics by the stream on their Suffolk farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel hides out in her childhood tree house dreaming of a boy called Billy, a move to London, and the bright future she can’t wait to seize. But before the idyllic afternoon is over, Laurel will have witnessed a shocking crime that changes everything.

2011: Now a much-loved actress, Laurel finds herself overwhelmed by shades of the past. Haunted by memories, and the mystery of what she saw that day, she returns to her family home and begins to piece together a secret history. A tale of three strangers from vastly different worlds – Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy – who are brought together by chance in wartime London and whose lives become fiercely and fatefully entwined.

My Perspective

The Secret Keeper is mainly about Dorothy “Dolly” Smitham’s life and how nearing the end of it, Dolly’s eldest daughter Laurel, starts digging into the past to find out her mother’s secrets of the life she led before she was married – specifically how the event Laurel witnessed as a teenager came to be.

The Secret Keeper was written in true Kate Morton style – a complex family saga spanning over a couple of generations with plenty of drama, mystery and twists and turns.

I really did not like Dolly. More so from before she was married than after. She was so selfish and so self absorbed. It took so much tragedy for her to realise how much she truly had. I really liked Laurel. I felt like you couldn’t help but be drawn to her. Jimmy was such a sweetheart with such a good heart and I really hated the way Dolly treated him and that he let her! Vivien was such an interesting character with many layers and I couldn’t help but like her.

The story was quite long and about half way through I thought it was about to come to a head and the story was going to be finished. Obviously it didn’t and instead there was a bit of a dead spot and I couldn’t fathom that there was still a whole other half to the story. However it did pick up again and after a bit even more pieces to the puzzle became clear.

There were so many twists and turns in the book that quite a few times I felt a bit lost. It was very interesting though and really kept me guessing. I was able to figure out a few of the minor mysteries however the major one had me completely fooled until the very end. It’s such an in depth book that really once you’ve finished reading it, you need to start at the very beginning and read it all over again and you’d probably still miss some things!

Overall I quite enjoyed the story and I found it hard to put down. I wish I could have loved the story however as I didn’t like Dolly’s character, that put a blemish on it for me. I would definitely recommend if you like a dramatic family saga.

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The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

The Distant Hours by Kate MortonBlurb

It started with a letter. A letter that had been lost a long time, waiting out half a century, in a forgotten postal bag in the dim attic of a nondescript house in Bermondsey . . .

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long-lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.

Evacuated from London as a thirteen-year-old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe and taken to live at Milderhurst Castle with the Blythe family: Juniper, her twin sisters and their father, Raymond, author of a 1918 children’s classic, The True History of the Mud Man. In the grand and glorious Milderhurst Castle, a new world opens up for Edie’s mother. She discovers the joys of books and fantasy and writing, but also, ultimately, the dangers.

Fifty years later, as Edie chases the answers to her mother’s riddle, she, too, is drawn to Milderhurst Castle and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.

For it is said, you know, that a letter will always seek a reader; that sooner or later, like it or not, words have a way of finding the light, of making their secrets known.

My Perspective

I bought the The Distant Hours at a garage sale for $2 I think. Such a bargain!

The book is about Edith Burchill, a young lady who works in publishing and has never really connected with her mother. One day a letter turns up for her mother, and from that moment the secrets and puzzles of the past start to unravel.

The story was cleverly written alternating between the present and the past and from a few different perspectives. It also changed from being first person for Edith and third person for everyone else. At first I found this a little challenging to read however it made a lot of sense to do it that way and I soon became used to the switching styles.

Edith or Edie as she’s mainly known, was a likeable character that I was able to connect with fairly well. Her mother frustrated me at the beginning however as the book went on and what she’d carried for so many years was revealed, I was able to understand where she had been coming from. I also appreciated how her character grew and was able to move on. I liked Edie’s Dad and Herbert, her boss. The Blythe sisters left me with many different emotions, all which kept changing as the book went on.

The story was very interesting and there was a lot of mystery throughout and different threads intertwined together. It was definitely hard to put down.

The book is quite sad and even though it didn’t make me cry as such, it certainly leaves a bit of a depressing mark on you.

There was a lot of vivid description throughout and it is written in a very abstract way. At first I found it a bit bewildering however I soon adjusted. If you like straightforward writing then you might struggle with enjoying this. I think it melds well with the rest of the story.

I enjoyed reading this book, I enjoyed the mystery and secrets. I did find it sad and without spoiling the ending, I was a bit like, “Why?! Why?!”

I would definitely recommend this book for those who like family saga, drama, and mystery. Although this was superbly written, The Forgotten Garden is still my favourite Kate Morton book.

The Shifting Fog/The House At Riverton by Kate Morton

The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton

Blurb

Summer 1924:
On the eve of a glittering society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.

Winter 1999:
Grace Bradley, 98, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet’s suicide. Ghosts awaken and memories, long-consigned to the dark reaches of Grace’s mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge; something history has forgotten but Grace never could.

 Set as the war-shattered Edwardian summer surrenders to the decadent twenties, The Shifting Fog is a thrilling mystery and a compelling love story.

My Perspective

I read this book under the name ‘The Shifting Fog’ however it was originally published as ‘The House At Riverton’.

A few years ago i was perusing the bookshelves at my local library when i found The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. I was captured by the story, spread over three generations, of the rich history of a family and the secrets they held.

About a year ago whilst browsing at a garage sale with my husband and my mother-in-law, i found another of her books, The Shifting Fog. It was $2 so i bought it. I’ve only gotten around to reading it now.

Have you ever read a story and have been left feeling like all of your emotions have been sucked right out of you and all that is left is a deep, dark void of bleakness, even despair? You constantly relive the moments in the book, all the turning points, trying to find resolution? This is what this book made me feel.

The story is told by Grace, now an old woman reflecting on her time as a housemaid for the family at Riverton Manor, and her involvement in their lives and the secrets they held. A young film producer sparks the long repressed memories by coming to her about a film she is to produce based on the tragedy that the two sisters, Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, were witness to. History has it’s own way of retelling the past, but only Grace knows the truth.

The story was really well written, weaving such intricate webs, continually adding bits and pieces making the puzzle seem so much larger than you originally thought.

I really liked Grace as a young housemaid. The way the author wrote her character was excellent – with the mindset of a servant , which was so realistic for that time, that it was a privilege to serve in one of the manor houses. I have found that this can be easily overlooked by a lot of authors. They give them a 21st century attitude. I can’t say though that i liked her the same as an old woman. I didn’t understand why it could feel so disjointed because they are the same person however i understand now.

The book starts off fairly lighthearted and full of hope however as the story goes on it starts to take on a dark undertone and soon hope is giving way to despair. Even though i feel a bit like an emotional wreck, i think it was really clever how Kate matched and reflected the story with the evolving of her characters.

I enjoyed the premise of this story and the detail to which Kate went into, however i do feel that it dragged a bit – however mostly the bits of Grace as an older woman. I also found that the ‘script’ scenes caused me to come out of the story, which in turn made it a bit disjointed.

One that also niggled me was that towards the end of the book, because of the bleakness of the situation, there is a small snippet of a possible ‘happy ever after’ however i think the book would have been better without it. The book was so rich and colourful, so emotional and raw and this little bit was like the dash of Hollywood that had to get put in. I don’t think it’s a fault of the author, rather a personal opinion that i would have preferred it didn’t have.

I really, really hate spoilers however i need to let it out otherwise i will go crazy. I am actually quite upset about the outcome of the book. How the relationship between Hannah and Grace finished. It’s so heart-wrenching. The whole story was! It was filled with so much tragedy.

I don’t know if i could read this book again. When i read books like these, i don’t read shallowly, i read deeply – meaning that all my emotions are vulnerable to the text, laid bare for the book to touch. It was a great story but it’s too much for me. It’s probably not healthy and i need to stop doing it but it’s like when a truly great actor becomes the characters they play, they open themselves up to be able to be someone else – like Heath Ledger and The Joker (and no, i’m not comparing myself to Heath Ledger, i’m merely trying to make a point). I want to read books like that because i want to experience them however in cases like this, it’s not always worth it.

If you like deep, emotional dramas or family sagas, i would recommend this book to you. This was her debut novel and i think she did a good job however i enjoyed her second book, The Forgotten Garden a lot more.

As for me, tonight dreams will haunt my sleep while my mind works, storing the pages of this book deep into the recesses of my memory. I will wake, emotions in check, as if nothing ever happened, ready for the next story.