June online ebook club wrap-up: The secret keeper

This month we looked at The secret keeper by Kate Morton as part of our online ebook club.

The story begins when 16-year-old Laurel Nicholson witnesses a shocking event which shapes the way she sees her mother and unusually happy family. Fifty years later Laurel’s mother, Dorothy, is on her death bed and Laurel decides to seek out the truth behind that day before it’s too late. This leads her to a series of mysteries reaching as far back as World War II. The story switches between 1941 and 2011 as Laurel starts to uncover more and more secrets about Dorothy and two others that seem to play a role in the event Laurel witnesses as a girl  – Jimmy and Vivien.

I thought this was excellent escapist literature. I’ve read other reviews saying that it was confusing and dragged on too much, however I never felt bored and thought the deep descriptions set the scene well. I also found that Morton writes her characters with such description and complexity that it was easy to feel close to them.

I did find however, that this novel was very far-fetched. Some of the characters seemed a little too flawless and the ending was wrapped up far too neatly for my liking. There were also some coincidences that just didn’t seem plausible. I felt like Morton was clutching at straws just to make the story come full circle.

Like I said however, this is escapist literature and I don’t think it always has to be completely, depressingly realistic at all times. It was great to get lost in the story and the mystery. The twists are fantastic and will draw you in until the very last page.

To address some of the discussion questions I posed at the beginning of the month:

1. Did you find any moral ambiguity in Dorothy’s actions? Do you think she had a choice? 1941 Dorothy definitely did have a choice and so her actions were in no way justified. I didn’t like her character at all and thought she was a silly little girl playing with people’s lives. I can see some justification in post-1941 Dorothy’s actions. There probably was a second choice but her actions reflected her need to protect her family.

2. Do you think the characters lived the lives they deserved? No they didn’t necessarily get what they deserved. There were character’s I didn’t particularly like but still wouldn’t have wished their fate on anyone. It was good however, to see some of the nicer characters living relatively happy lives.

3. Did you expect the ending? I’ll admit I didn’t however I’m a novice mystery reader so I’m sure other readers would have picked up on clues that I didn’t.

4. Do you think Laurel is justified in seeking out her mother’s hidden secrets? This is a tricky one. As much as I think it’s probably rude to pry into another person’s personal life I probably would have done the same. In this case, Dorothy’s past had an effect on both Laurel and Gerry’s lives and so I think Laurel was justified in seeking out some closure.

5. Did you prefer to follow Laurel’s story or the stories of Dorothy, Jimmy and Vivien? Definitely Dorothy, Jimmy and Vivien. Then again, Laurel’s story was essentially about uncovering the story of Dorothy, Jimmy and Vivien.

6. Did you learn something new from the novel?I didn’t feel like I learned anything new however it gave an interesting insight into narcissistic disorders. It made me view 1941 Dorothy as not so much an evil and manipulative person, but as a sick person.

Over to you – what did you think of the novel? Love it? Hate it? Is there another historical fiction novel you’d recommend? I’d love to hear your thoughts.