A Secret Kept
by Tatiana de Rosnay
When a novel is entitled A Secret Kept, you can safely assume it revolves around a secret. And that secret better be a good one. Unfortunately, I found Tatiana de Rosnay's sophomore effort to be a disappointment.
I was one of many readers who'd enjoyed Sarah's Key, and that was the principle reason I chose to read this novel. With her previous novel, it was the subject matter and the story being told that captured my attention, far more than the quality of her writing. Even then, I had to acknowledge that there was a cheesiness factor.
Unfortunately, that cheesiness is front and center in A Secret Kept. I started to write that it is the story of siblings Antoine and Mélanie Rey, but Antoine is our first-person narrator and this is really his story. As the novel opens, he has surprised his sister on the occasion of her 40th birthday. They are visiting the island resort they frequented for years as children. Neither has been back in 30-some years, since the sudden death of their mother. The return has been a mixed success, and it has reawakened old memories disturbing enough to cause Mélanie to literally lose control of the car they are in.
Antoine is unharmed, but Mélanie has a long recovery ahead of her. At first they begin to explore the implications of Mélanie's recovered memory together, but she pulls out, leaving him to dig alone. Along the path to discovery, de Rosnay throws every roadblock imaginable--including literal roadblocks!--in his way.
In addition to researching the past, there are events afoot in the present: family dramas, relationships beginning and ending, career highs and lows. I could summarize it all, but who really cares? None of it is especially compelling. And when the secrets are finally revealed and all the cards are on the table, none of it is very shocking or even that interesting. Plus, we had to read several love letters along the way that can only be described as cringe-worthy.
I partially read this book on paper, and partially listened to the audiobook. Narrator Simon Vance does a reasonable job with the material he has, but why have a novel peopled with French characters read by an actor with a British accent? Every French name and phrase is pronounced impeccably, so why not have the characters speak in their own accent? It seemed an odd choice.
This is certainly not the worst book I've ever read. It's solidly mediocre. And that's just not enough for me to go out of my way to recommend it to anyone. In the future, I'll think twice before reading a story because of de Rosnay's name alone.