Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

From the back of the book: 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.

I'm a fan of Kate Morton. I've read several of her other books, and was excited to read The Secret Keeper as well. I finished the book quite awhile ago, but was putting off reviewing it because I wasn't entirely sure what to say about it. 

See, it took me months to read The Secret Keeper. MONTHS. For me, that's pretty unheard of--usually, when I'm reading a good book, I carry it around with me in my diaper bag, sneaking at least a page or two at every possible opportunity. When I'm reading a good book, every spare minute is devoted to that book. And usually, if I'm not into a book in that way, I never finish it. The Secret Keeper was different, in that I really enjoyed the book, and could find myself completely immersed in Laurel and Dorothy's world, but then I could also put the book down and literally not touch it for a month, not really thinking about it either. Can a book like that still be a "good" read? I'm not sure..

After a bit of space and time, I think that the main issue is that there was a LOT of superfluous material in the book. Beautiful and thoughtful descriptions of places, and contemplative thoughts about characters--they were superb writing, but really did nothing to advance the plot. The descriptions didn't really build a basis for a character's later actions. They didn't really foreshadow twists to the mystery. They were just there. I have no problem with books that essentially act as character studies, but in this case, half the book felt like a character study and half the book felt like a mystery, and I'm not sure that those two genres meshed particularly well. I mean, I could sit down and read for a half an hour, and walk away realizing that I knew no more about the mystery at hand or any of the characters involved than I did before. I knew about how a field glowed at a particular hour, or how Dorothy felt in a fur coat. And because The Secret Keeper is essentially a mystery, I found myself just wanting to skip sections to get back to the real action, rather than enjoying the (rather long) detours. I suppose that when I read a mystery, I like it to be a page-turner. Something that I can hardly bear to put down. And The Secret Keeper? I just wasn't quite like that for me.

Despite figuring out the "twist" ending pretty early on, I'd say that The Secret Keeper is still worth a look, especially if you're a Kate Morton fan. As always, the writing was beautiful, the book was resolved well, and the characters were interesting, just don't expect a fast-moving mystery! 

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm...the plot sounds like something I would really like but I don't do well with superfluous material. I skim read anyway, and when it's extra stuff that doesn't pertain to the story line, I barely read it. I don't have time for info that doesn't move the plot along!


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