The Secret Keeper
1961: On a sweltering summer’s day, while her family picnics by the stream on their Suffolk farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel hides out in her childhood tree house dreaming of a boy called Billy, a move to London, and the bright future she can’t wait to seize. But before the idyllic afternoon is over, Laurel will have witnessed a shocking crime that changes everything.
2011: Now a much-loved actress, Laurel finds herself overwhelmed by shades of the past. Haunted by memories, and the mystery of what she saw that day, she returns to her family home and begins to piece together a secret history. A tale of three strangers from vastly different worlds – Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy – who are brought together by chance in wartime London and whose lives become fiercely and fatefully entwined.
Shifting between the 1930s, the 1960s and the present, The Secret Keeper is a spellbinding story of mysteries and secrets, theatre and thievery, murder and enduring love.
At the top of a tree
Ideas for The Secret Keeper began to percolate years ago, and a half-finished version of Chapter One sat in an old notebook for ages before I finally started work on the book officially. I’d long carried the stubborn image in my mind of a teenage girl at the top of a tree—it was a warm, summer afternoon, the scene infused with the peculiar potency of its adolescent narrator—and I knew the idyllic picture would be shattered by something shocking … I just wasn’t sure exactly what that something would be. I tried to force that girl into other books, but she was uncooperative and it seems she knew better than I that she didn’t belong in those stories.
Bringing the Blitz to life
In 2008, my family and I went to live in London for three months. London is a special city for me: there, more than anywhere else, I feel conscious of the past brushing against me. I’ve always been fascinated by the Second World War, in particular life on the Home Front, and I arranged to meet a guide who walked me around central London on a bitter cold November day and brought the Blitz to life. Once I discovered my wartime character, Dorothy, I finally knew what it was her daughter would witness on that summer’s day, twenty years later …
Of course there were periods during its composition when I felt utterly confuddled and couldn’t make the puzzle pieces fit together, but I’m learning that’s just part and parcel of this wonderful, frustrating, exhilarating book-writing thing. There were times, too, of enormous thrill. When things just worked, or threads I hadn’t expected to belong together surprised me, or really difficult sections finally came right.
Most of all though, this book reminded me what I love about writing. Not just writing, but storytelling. It reminded me that I write because there is nothing on earth I love more than disappearing inside the world of a made-up story. And The Secret Keeper is a story. Those have always been my favourite types of books. It’s a mystery with a big old secret at its heart and characters whom I love.
I love reading groups. Books, friends, sometimes even cake and coffee (or wine, so I’m told. . . ).
Writing is a largely solitary pursuit, but storytelling is not. For me, it’s a joy each time a single reader picks up one of my books and brings its world and characters back to life; the idea that they might then get together with friends and talk the characters and storyline over is a complete delight.
So, here are some discussion points to get you and your group started . . .
Some of these questions contain plot details that you may not wish to know until you’ve finished The Secret Keeper.
‘Morton is a master storyteller.’ — Sun Herald
‘A page-turner … Morton creates realistic characters that captivate the reader.’ — Canberra Times
‘A gripping tale of love and betrayal.’— Good Housekeeping, US
‘A spellbinding new novel that mixes mystery, murder, and enduring love.’ — Barnes & Noble, US
‘It’s a corker.’— Sydney Morning Herald
‘Morton’s finesse with family secrets increases with each novel.’— Kirkus Review
‘The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.’— Amazon.com
‘Morton’s war-ravaged London, depicted with atmospheric flair, is a treacherous place swirling with heightened emotions, class-conscious socialites, bright spots of glamorous decadence, and the ever-present possibility of death or betrayal.’— Reading the Past
‘Tense and atmospheric’—Woman & Home, UK
‘Kate Morton excels in this enthralling novel about desires and divided loyalties.’ — Good Housekeeping
‘… a spellbinding new novel filled with mystery, thievery, murder, and enduring love.’— Amazon.com
‘An evocative tale of wartime secrets and family loyalty . . . The story unfurls with a beguiling sweetness, but there’s a real sting to this tale, too’— Marie Claire, UK