Summary and book reviews of A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay

A Secret Kept

By Tatiana de Rosnay

A Secret Kept
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2010,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2011,
    320 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Beverly Melven

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About this Book

Book Summary

This stunning novel from Tatiana de Rosnay, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller Sarah's Key, plumbs the depths of complex family relationships and the power of a past secret to change everything in the present.

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. By turns thrilling, seductive and destructive, with a lingering effect that is bittersweet and redeeming, A Secret Kept is the story of a modern family, the invisible ties that hold it together, and the impact it has throughout life.

Browse an excerpt

Chapter One

I am shown into a small, drab room, told to sit down and wait. Six empty brown plastic chairs face each other on tired linoleum. In a corner, a fake green plant, shiny leaves coated with dust. I do as I am told. I sit down. My thighs tremble. My palms feel clammy, my throat parched. My head throbs. I think: I should call our father now, I should call him before it gets too late. But my hand makes no effort to grab the phone in the pocket of my jeans. Call our father and tell him what? Tell him how?

The lighting is harsh, glaring strips of neon barring the ceiling. The walls are yellowish and cracked. I sit there, numb. Helpless. Lost. I long for a cigarette. I wonder if I am going to retch, bring up the bitter coffee and stale brioche I had a couple of hours ago.

I can still hear the screech of the wheels, feel the sudden lurch of the car as it veered sharply to the right, careening into the railing. And her scream. I can still hear her scream.

How many people ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the different narrative structures employed in A Secret Kept.  What do you think the author intended to achieve with each? Do you prefer one over the others? 


  2. How does the author describe the classic, wealthy 16th arrondissement of Paris - where Blanche Rey's apartment and the avenue Kleber one are located - as opposed to where Antoine lives, on the Left bank?  What does this tell you about the Rey family?


  3. Part of the novel takes place on Noirmoutier Island which is connected to the west coast of France by the Gois Passage.  Why is Antoine so attached to Gois Passage?  Do you see any parallels between the author's descriptions of this place and the story as a whole?


  4. What was your ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about A Secret Kept. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

Did you find the novel morbid?
I think the desire to learn the 'secret' is very much in keeping with how the family (or our perception) of it helps us define who we are. Death is just another step on how we better understand ourselves through others. - mary

Did you like the character of the sexy, streewise mortician Angèle Rouvatier?
I loved this character. Her personality too, was before her time. She had the unusual ability to think and do as she pleased, thanks to the fact that she had no family to whom she had to answer for her actions. In that day and time she was ... - ruthd

Do you see any parallels between the author's descriptions of the Gois Passage and the story as a whole?
I believe that the Gois Passage in the story was an important vehicle for the building of the entire story. It was intended to be a romantic setting for remembering good times (per Antoine). However, Melanie's memories were quite different than ... - ruthd

Do you think Antoine will ever get through to his father?
I think so much distance excisted between the two men that neither one of them could bridge the gap let alone discuss the issue of Clarisse. - djn

Do you think Blanche told Francois about Clarisse's affair?
I think one of the interesting aspects of this book was the number of "secrets kept" and how many unanswered questions there were. This is just another one. - djn

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Reviews

BookBrowse

If you like your thought-provoking books with a dose of energetic plot, you'll want to read A Secret Kept. Set in France, both in Paris and Noirmoutier, an island off the east coast of France... I was thoroughly engrossed and finished the book in two days. There was never a false note, and never a dull moment.   (Reviewed by Beverly Melven).

Full Review Members Only (977 words).

Media Reviews
USA Today - Jocelyn McClurg

Secret has its pleasures; de Rosnay (whose literary heroine is Daphne du Maurier) knows how to keep you hooked, and it's entertaining to watch her sympathetic French characters grapple with their Gallic angst. But this novel is a mere bonbon compared with Sarah's Key's rich feast.

Kirkus Reviews

The story of an emotionally distant family as it struggles to come to grips with changing dynamics and the mysterious death of a young mother many years ago[...] De Rosnay's writing is eloquent and beautiful, and her characterizations are both honest and dead-on.

Publishers Weekly

This perceptive portrait of a middle-aged man's delayed coming-of-age rates as a seductive, suspenseful, and trés formidable keeper.

Author Blurb Erica Bauermeister, author of The School of Essential Ingredients
A Secret Kept is a beautiful and haunting exploration of wanting - and not wanting - to understand one's past, of learning to see parents as individuals, whether the parents in question are our own or ourselves.

Author Blurb Diane Chamberlain, author of Summer's Child
In A Secret Kept, Tatiana de Rosnay takes us on a journey to that haunted place where the past seeps into the present, where memory appears and disappears, and where healing seems always out of reach. With her lyrical prose and her gift for creating deeply sympathetic characters, de Rosnay has given us a hopeful story, as addictive as it is moving."

Reader Reviews
Doreen M

A secret kept
Depressing and disjointed. Such a big letdown after Sarah's Keys.

Dorothy Halligan

A Secret Kept
A very well-written story about how we perceive events as children, and often misconstrue their meaning. I listened to the book and found the narrator as good a storyteller as I've heard, which enhanced the culture, and sense of place that was ...   Read More

I.Marshall

A Secret Kept
Very well written, but unsatisfactory. The plot was muddled and there seemed to be too many extraneous events that had little or nothing to do with the main plot. At one point a reference to the letters that he had not yet read was made. Again, ...   Read More

JWW

Not a page turner
This book had it's moments of intrigue and interesting plot but, unfortunately, there were only moments. A big deal was made of the secret but the secret was not such a big deal. The characters were over-wrought or under developed and, at times, ...   Read More

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Noirmoutier

A Secret Kept is set primarily in Paris and Noirmoutier (pronounced "nwar mooteeay"), an island off the Atlantic coast of France in the Loire region. A popular tourist destination for both beach-lovers and history buffs, Ile de Noirmoutier (literally 'island of black monastery') has several claims to fame:

It is home to La Bonnotte, the world's most expensive potato. The carefully controlled crop is harvested by hand in the first week of May and is sold to restaurants and foodies across Europe. If you look up La Bonnotte online you'll find a multitude of websites ready to tell you that they sell for €500 or more a kilo. These reports should be taken with a strong pinch of salt. The reality is that occasional bags have sold for...

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