Title: A Secret Kept
Author: Tatiana De Rosnay
Narrator: Simon Vance
Length of Audiobook: 8 hours, 52 minutes
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood. Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie’s birthday: a weekend by the sea at Noirmoutier Island, where the pair spent many happy childhood summers playing on the beach. It had been too long, Antoine thought, since they’d returned to the island—over thirty years, since their mother died and the family holidays ceased. But the island’s haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories; it reminds Mélanie of something unexpected and deeply disturbing about their last island summer. When, on the drive home to Paris, she finally summons the courage to reveal what she knows to Antoine, her emotions overcome her and she loses control of the car.
Recovering from the accident in a nearby hospital, Mélanie tries to recall what caused her to crash. Antoine encounters an unexpected ally: sexy, streetwise Angèle, a mortician who will teach him new meanings for the words life, love and death. Suddenly, however, the past comes swinging back at both siblings, burdened with a dark truth about their mother, Clarisse.
Trapped in the wake of a shocking family secret shrouded by taboo, Antoine must confront his past and also his troubled relationships with his own children. How well does he really know his mother, his children, even himself? Suddenly fragile on all fronts as a son, a husband, a brother and a father, Antoine Rey will learn the truth about his family and himself the hard way.”
Thoughts: A Secret Kept makes much of the secret about Clarisse, Antoine and Mélanie’s mother; however, at heart it is a novel about relationships – father, brother, son, lover, husband, employee and even mother and sister. How does each relationship change over time? What does each role owe another? The family secret’s unveiling is actually the stepping stones for growth. The reader will not find it quite as shocking as Antoine only be because the reader is privy to his growth and healing. In fact, Mélanie’s ultimate fear at the truth only highlights Antoine’s bravery.
The characters in A Secret Kept are so honest and so realistic, that one feels part of the Rey family. Antoine with his pain and grief at his divorce, Mélanie’s fear and desire to maintain a happy family appearance, even Angèle with her wisdom and street sense – each character adds their own unique perspective on life that ultimately helps not only Antoine but the reader as well. Poignant and touching, Antoine’s struggles reiterate the idea that everyone is striving to do a good job in relationships. His struggles are familiar and comforting because the reader understands that everyone struggles with the same things. Because of this, the reader can only cheer on Antoine’s successes.
Simon Vance has won multiple awards for his narrating, and within the first few minutes of listening, one can understand why. His voice is soothing and calm and pure ear candy. Yet, there are moments where one questions whether his voice is too soft-spoken. Any curse words are a bit too jarring and unnatural coming from such a sophisticated voice as Vance’s. Still, his knowledge of French definitely adds to the entire story, making the reader feel like he or she is truly in France and a part of the story.
Lyrical in its phrasing, picturesque in its descriptions, A Secret Kept is quite evocative. The reader is emotionally drawn into Antoine’s narrative, simultaneously applying the same lessons Antoine learns to his or her own life. However, there is a sweet simplicity to the story as well, one that prevents it from becoming overly emotional. The end result is a refreshing look at modern relationships and the age-old struggle to find happiness.
Thank you to Macmillan Audio for my review copy!