Monday, May 09, 2011

Why not indulge in this delicious French secret?

Tatiana de Rosnay’s book arrived and with a title ‘A Secret Kept’ it went immediately onto my ‘potential treats’ pile. A book that has a secret at its heart generally gets my vote for an enjoyable read.
The cover says: ‘combines the suspense of Douglas Kennedy with the psychological perception of Maggie O’Farrell’ , thus giving the author something impossible to live up to.
So I was particularly happy when ‘A Secret Kept’ turned out to be really engaging and peopled with gorgeous French settings and characters with names like Solange and Clarisse. Better and better.
The heart of the book is a family disengaging by the minute. Antoine is covering his grief after the departure of his wife (for a photographer called Serge) and in increasing isolation as his children grow into unresponsive teenagers.
Antoine starts investigating what he begins to think is the suspicious circumstances surrounding the last family visit to the sometime island of Gois when he was a child, and the death of his mother soon after.
The story of a grand family and a buried secret could easily have descended into melodrama. But fortunately Tatiana de Rosnay hasn’t reached for cheap shock tactics or unbelievable twists to play out her story, which is firmly centred on the effect the loss of a beloved mother can have on her children and the legacy of fractures in a family. Antoine starts to recognise his own failures that have led to his family growing away from him.
The truth Antoine uncovers is not the terrible secret he has begun to imagine, but many of the best stories about secrets are those that explore the damage done by having secrets at all.
And as with all the best stories, second chances are offered, family repairs stitched up and everyone accepts that no-one is perfect.
I particularly like the fact that a lot of the tape for the patching is provided by a leather clad mortician on a motorbike, who provides the healing balm for Antoine and the wounds left by his wife, which she tends as carefully as she dresses and beautifies a dead body.
So full marks for Tatiana from me – my favourite indulgent read so far this year.
A Secret Kept    Tatiana de Rosnay           Pan        7.99

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