It’s taken everyone quite a while to read this book – at nearly 600 pages, its one of the longest Book Club choices I think we’ve ever had. But in the main everyone seemed to enjoy it, despite the fact we had to skip a meeting to allow more reading time.
The Secret Keeper is a story told over three time periods, starting with an upsetting event in the 1960’s witnessed by a 16 year old girl, Laurel, involving her mother. Five decades later, Laurel’s mother is very ill and Laurel decides to try and unravel the mystery surrounding what happened years before. This takes her back even further into the past, to pre-war London, and the story of Dorothy, Jimmy and Vivienne.
The style of writing was good, as it kept the story moving and left several cliffhangers, as the stories interwove it forced the reader to wait to find out the fate of each of the characters. For me the 1930’s story was by far the most interesting, with the young Dorothy proving to be quite a chaotic and jumpy character, who’s unpredictable actions kept me guessing as she went from a self centred teenager to a young woman working as a ladies companion in London. The grown up Laurel, by contrast, I found rather irritating. It seemed like she had waited until the precise moment that her mother was unable to answer any of her questions about what really happened before trying to ask them. Perhaps in some ways that is realistic, but it made the present day chapters a little boring in my opinion.
There were a few twists and turns that stood out, and I particularly liked the scene very early on in the book, featuring Dorothy and Vivienne, which provided a few clues and which was then recounted right at the end, when the secret Dorothy had been keeping was finally revealed. I would say more, but I don’t want to spoil it…
I hesitate to end on a negative, but I can’t escape the fact that this book was far too long. I don’t mind reading long books, it really doesn’t bother me, but in a book of any length, every word must count. Although The Secret Keeper was a good mystery story, there were too many dead spots, too many unnecessary words, too many pages and sometimes whole chapters where all I could think was “That bit could have been cut.” It made it all seem too slow for my liking, until I all I felt was desperate to get to the end. So for that reason I have settled on three stars.