Book Review: The Secret by Kathryn Hughes (published by Headline Review)
The Secret is an easy, enjoyable, quick read which has a lovely ending (and don’t we all need a HEA every now and then!). It is set partly in 2016 and partly in the mid-70s and tells of an event in the seventies that remained secret for decades, only coming to light after the death of Beth’s mother Mary.
Beth is frantically searching for a donor for her sick son, and her and her husband aren’t a match. Beth doesn’t know who her father is, her mother keeping it a firm secret, but it’s only after Mary dies that Beth resolves to find out who he is once and for all – as he might be her son’s only chance of survival. Beth’s routing around in her mother’s items uncovers an old letter and newspaper clipping that shocks Beth to the core.
We then go back in time to the seventies to learn more about the events of the day in question mentioned in the article and the people whose lives were entwined with what happened on that day, including Beth’s mother Mary. The story is told from the point of view of quite a few characters, and we hop about a bit between characters, and at first I forgot who was who. But soon the characters become quite distinct and the change of voice felt natural and flowed well.
I didn’t particularly gel with any one character. All felt a little superficial and although I could easily imagine these people and their actions seemed completely reasonable and believable, I didn’t get emotionally attached. And I felt the emotion at some parts was lacking, for example why isn’t Lorraine more devastated at the horrific death of someone she holds dear? Anyhow, at the end, I thought, “well that was nice,” and closed the book, rather than “OMG, I’m so incredibly pleased that this happened to this character and she got this and he was that, and I feel slightly teary, but a bit elated…” etc. (Like the feeling I got at the end of Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, which I thought about for weeks after. That is one moving story!).
The action is set in Blackpool and Manchester, and I enjoyed all the Northern sayings and dialogue. I also liked reading the chapters set in the seventies, with all the references to life in those days, like listening to the wireless, eating chicken in a basket at the pub, riding donkeys on the beach at Blackpool and so on.
There’s some great foreshadowing in this novel, which made me desperate to know what happens next. And there’s a couple of good twists – one which I guessed early on, but a second that I didn’t see coming. If you enjoy family saga / human drama reads which are in equal parts happy and sad but with an uplifting feeling at the end, then this is the book for you.
My rating: 3/5
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