Feature image from CHATELAINE
THE SECRET KEEPER by Kate Morton
I first stumbled upon Kate Morton in the book pages of the Sydney Morning Herald. The article was about Australia’s most sought after writer at the moment – and how I probably hadn’t heard of her. It was right. I hadn’t heard of her.
At the time, THE SECRET KEEPER was about to be released, and I figured I owed it to myself to get a copy, I owed it to Australia! That was the first time I read The Secret Keeper.
Now three years later, I am reading it again.
The Blurb Copy
During a picnic at her family’s farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses a shocking crime, a crime that challenges everything she knows about her adored mother, Dorothy. Now, fifty years later, Laurel and her sisters are meeting at the farm to celebrate Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this is her last chance to discover the truth about that long-ago day, Laurel searches for answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.
As Laurel refuses to let her mother pass without sharing her secret of what really happened on that day, the reader is transported back to London during World War II when Dorothy, Laurels mother was a young woman. The tale is adventurous and thrilling, but I feel like I cannot really put too much here without spoiling the whole thing. All I will say is that the ending is gut wrenching!
This book has one of the most well written literary openings of any book I have read, comparable to the hot air balloon scene from Ian McEwan’s ENDURING LOVE.
From there it reads like a historical drama-slash- family mystery investigation-slash-war romance. I hate to use the cliche, but it really does have it all. At the heart of Morton’s stories are hidden family secrets set against vast sweeping sagas. A genre she has single-handedly revived in such a way as to make it her own.
The first time I read this book, it completely consumed me. I powered through the novel at a crazy pace. The second time around, knowing what I know about the ending, I’m seeing a completely different story.
The second reading is incredibly interesting. I’m looking back at every thread of the story, knowing they are all leading together. It’s really beautifully written.
The Secret Keeper is an easy (addictive) read, a book you can quickly pick up and put down. It’s hard to compare it to other writing, as it so unique. It reminds me of so many stories and novels I have read, but at the same time, has a unique voice I haven’t heard before.
THE SECRET KEEPER was published in 2012 by Allen & Unwin in Australia. It is Morton’s fourth novel. It’s a big book, at nearly 600 pages, but you don’t feel the story going slowly in any way. It’s just heavy in your arms, late at night as you find you won’t put it down.
Reading this book as an Emerging Writer, I often felt a little sick. It’s the kind of book that is soooo good, you know you could never write. Reading this book on a bad day could be detrimental to your writing practice. On a good day it could bring hope that Australian lady writers from Queensland are making it big right around the world. It could go either way.
When THE SECRET KEEPER was released in 2012 it was very well received. I remember seeing whole stands in bookstores devoted to the fourth Morton installment (not that her books are related in any way). The marketing behind The Secret Keeper was huge, and for good reason. Publishers knew they had a winning book and they wanted to share the love.
Kate Morton has been working hard for a long time. When people say, it takes 10 years to become an overnight success, they are talking about writers like Morton. “It’s been a long, hard struggle to get to this point” SMH Kate Morton now earns Million dollar advances for her books. But it wasn’t always the case.
Kate Morton originally wanted to become an actress. Instead, she earned herself first-class honors for her English Literature degree at the University of Queensland, during which time she wrote two full-length manuscripts (which are unpublished). Mortons first book was rejected by publishers, as was her second.
The third book, that would become the 2006 novel The Shifting Fog (The House at Riverton), was set aside after she had her first child, and it was during this time that her agent received an offer for the half published piece. She finished it in a month and the book was a success. Since then she has released a novel approximately every two and a half years.
As an Emerging Writer, Kate Morton’s work has not only taught me about plotting, character development and tone, her career has reminded me to keep pursuing a writing career, even when it feels impossible. As long as I am getting improving with every effort, then I am not wasting my time.
THE LAKE HOUSE was released in October 2015. It is Kate Morton’s Fifth novel – I am leaving my office now to go and buy it – Goodbye.