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.
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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 ...
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
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 (977 words).
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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