Title: The Secret Keeper
Author: Kate Morton
Narrator: Caroline Lee
Audiobook Length: 19 hours, 54 minutes
Genre: Historical Fiction
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 16 October 2012
Bottom Line: Slow beginning but powerful and quite surprising ending
“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.”
Thoughts: The Secret Keeper is a prime example of why one should never abandon a book. The beginning of the story is surprisingly slow, which is unusual in one of Ms. Morton’s novels. In addition, the characters are also slow to develop. Between the two, the mystery does not immediately grab a reader’s attention, and a reader finds it difficult to maintain an interest in the basic characters. The reward comes to patient readers in the final third of the novel, when what appeared to be obvious turns out to be less so, and the one-dimensional characters evolve into full-developed characters with startling depth. The ending proves to be something of a shock, and it is only then that a reader can appreciate the subtle twists that Ms. Morton masterfully weaves into her story. It just takes reading the full novel to get to that level of appreciation.
Caroline Lee narrates all of Ms. Morton’s novels, and it is no wonder that she does. The combination of Ms. Morton’s prose, her settings, and Ms. Lee’s beautiful voice is perfect for the tone of each of her stories. She may be Australian, but her British Isles’ accents are spot-on, flowing seamlessly from local dialects to Irish, low-brow, high-brow, and back again. In The Secret Keeper, Ms. Lee goes one extra step and uses an accent for each of the story’s narrators as well as during the dialogue scenes. It makes for a well-rounded audio experience that eliminates much of the confusion that may occur because of the multiple narrator changes. In addition, her precise delivery enhances the nuanced details of the story, proving once again that the duo of Ms. Lee and Ms. Morton is always a worthy listening experience.
Because the novel starts out so slowly and the characters do not lose their flatness until a good two-thirds into the story, The Secret Keeper is not one of Ms. Morton’s best. However, since all of Ms. Morton’s novels are better than the average novel, this is by no means a bad thing. The story’s resolution is as fitting as it is surprising, and the ride getting there is half the fun. The glimpses into London during the Blitz are fascinating in the sense of survival and typical stiff upper lip exhibited by the residences, while the characters are every bit as realistic as one might expect from the author. It may not be her best, but The Secret Keeper is still a welcome diversion and worth the time and patience.