Monday, June 4, 2012

A Secret Kept by Tatiana De Rosnay

St. Martin's Press

I read Sarah's Key a few years back and liked it.  It had an interesting mystery to it and the back story was historical fiction which was great for me, a lover of historical fiction.  I didn't enjoy the modern story as much I liked the Holocaust and the same goes for A Secret Kept, De Rosnay's second book.

"It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood.  Antoine Rey though he had the perfect surprise for his sister Melanie'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-more than 30 years since their mother died and the family holidays ceased.  But the island's haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories; it reminds Melanie 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."  (jacket flap)

When I read the flap at the library the intrigue over what scandalous thing would make someone lose control of the car piqued my interest.  The Parisian setting, the analysis of Antoine and Astrid's marriage, the teenage strife, Antoine's girlfriend, Angele, the back story of June and Clarisse, and the Rey's family all add to what could be an interesting and uniquely done story.

It doesn't work though.  Antoine is filled with such painful agony over his recent divorce and his relationship with his children.  His sister Melanie who worked in publishing before the accident seemed like an unique character but turns out to disappoint.  I found very little redeeming qualities for this family both past and present.  I'm not going to spill the story of what exactly happened with Antoine and Melanie's mother but it sadly goes no where.  I wanted some kind of resolution.  Perhaps Antoine should have had a conversation about his mother with his father to fully understand and maybe through that conversation some family healing for both men could have occurred.  This would have tied things together for Antoine to move forward with his future life, having connected with his father about their happier days.

More than the story's elements it was De Rosnay's writing style that made me cringe.  It was stilted, repetitive, and overly dramatic.  Instead of telling a simple story she gives us complex with too much blah-blah.  She tells us so many times that Antoine and his father haven't gotten along since their mother's death that I felt De Rosnay must think her audience dense.

"Melanie has opened her eyes.  Our father grabs her hand, hanging on to it for dear life, as if this were the last time he will ever touch her.  He leans toward her, half of his body on the bed.  The way he clasps her hand moves me.  He is realizing he has nearly lost his daughter.  His petitie Melabelle.  Her nickname from long ago. He wipes his eyes with the cotton handkerchief he always keeps in his pocket.  He cannot say a word, it seems.  He can only sit there and breathe audibly.Melanie is disturbed by this display of emotion.  She doesn't want to see his ravaged, wet face.  So she looks at me.  For so many years now, our father hasn't ever shown his feelings, only displeasure or anger.  This is an unexpected flashback to the tender, caring father he used to be, before our mother died." (79)

As a budding book blogger "psychologist" I would say their father has been angry for so long because his first wife, their mother, the love of his life died tragically!  And they never talk about it, never attempting to heal themselves or their father.  Everything De Rosnay tells us is that the he was an adoring father and husband but yet Antoine stays angry with him throughout, never discussing any of his new knowledge.  And Melanie completely shuts down and tells Antoine she doesn't want to know anything more, tucking her head in the sand, choosing to live in limbo about her family instead of knowing at least some of the truth.

Read more:

The Garfield Review

Another point-of-view at

Brain Candy Book Reviews.

*just a quirky note-did anybody else notice that both De Rosnay books have similar titles (Sarah's Key, A Secret Kept) both S,K* Odd to me or just odd I don't know.  You be the judge.

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