This Secret We’re Keeping, Rebecca Done
This Secret We’re Keeping, Rebecca Done
What an incredibly heart breaking read, a haunting, aching, emotional read – its going to be hard to review, but its a book that’s blown me away, its such a beautiful, realsitic but sad, sad story of love.
I read the blurb but missed the Norfolk connection…I read a lot and usually if Norfolk is mentioned its the USA Norfolk, not my little corner of the UK, North Norfolk; a rural area that’s maybe 40 x 30 miles max…Clearly Rebecca knows it well ( looking her up just now to ask about a sequel I found she lives in Norwich, a city just outside N Norfolk and about 25 miles way from me – small world) All through it mentions places I know, towns I’ve visited and I so recognise the Type of Natalie and Zac, rich Londoners who think everything here is quaint or unspoiled, then proceed to moan the corner shops doesn’t sell the particular type of olives from Tuscany they prefer, or they can’t get quails eggs, white truffles or other “essentials”…. Wells and Burnham market, areas mentioned in the book are known locally as Chelsea-by-the-sea, and it often seems Holt has more London second homes than locals, it even has a shop that stocks the quails eggs ect… Known as the Holt Harrods it’s full at weekends of the London holiday homers, carrying wicker shopping baskets over one arm, while exclaiming loudly how the peace is wonderful, but the dawn birdsong wakes them, and the air wonderfully fresh if it wasn’t for that horrible farm aroma from just down the road. Somebody Should Do Something, and will they sign the petiton. If you’re a people watcher it can be fascinating….
Anyway, back to Jess and Matthew. I so felt for them. There’s a world of difference to me between an older teacher deliberately grooming pupils and what happens here. If he’d been a builder, a shop worker, a taxi driver it would have been fine. Yes she’s only 15 and sex is illegal but let’s be honest, many kids, boys and girls, are having sex at an age far younger. It doesn’t make it right, and personally I don’t feel they are emotionally ready at 13 and 14 though many are active at that age, but Jess is 15 and just a few months off 16. She made all the running and in a way with her home background she was far older than her years. Then there’s the age gap, ten years. Its a big gap but if they’d been 16 and 26, 17 and 27…people don’t really see it as an issue. I met Him Indoors when I was 15, though we didn’t date till just after my 16th birthday, we married when I was 18 and 10 days, and have been married now 40 years next May. There’s 6 years between us, and I’ve many friends where the gap is larger – in either direction. People mature at different ages, Jess was (IMO) mature for her age while Matthew was quite young for his. Its back to that are they just two people in the wrong place who fall in love, or is he taking advantage of her? For me the answer is no, he didn’t, for others it may be different. To me that is crucial to how you’ll feel about the whole story.
Its told in turns by Matthew and Jess, from the past when they are 15 and 25 to the present when they are 32 and 42. By a series of events they are both now in Norfolk and meet each other – with a bang! That starting line certainly had me hooked. Its an incredibly sad, very emotional story, had me on the edge of tears in the last parts, I so felt for them. Right from the start you can see how they’re just kidding themselves it can work out – and yet who wouldn’t when they are so in love? To me that was it, it wasn’t infatuation, wasn’t grooming, wasn’t Matthew taking advantage of Jess but just two people who fell in love. There’s more to the story though, so much more, twists and tunrs, hiddens secrets, people who are not as they appear and as the book goes on in the present timeline more and more things from the past come out. We see how much what happened has affected them both, even to how they act, think and feel today. Its a time neither can forget, and yet once again they seem unable by circumstances to be together unless something incredible happens.
There are some fabulous characters here, teacher types I recognise, places that are so real to me as I know them well. I guess that’s part of why it all felt so real to me, though the writing is so well done that I think I’d still feel the same even if it was somewhere I didn’t know. I’m not dissing all teachers here BTW – but there are ones just like those in the book. I attended a girls grammar school back in the early 70’s, it was clear that teaching for some was, as with Matthew, a real vocation and for others a boring job to be got through as soon as possible with least effiort. Ironically our maths teacher was obsessed with all things sex after his wife left him. Our lessons consisted of working out scale plans for the perfect bedroom, complete with of course, room for a double bed, and he spent the lesson throwing out sexual innuendos to some girls, asking about their boyfriends and love lives. He had a crush on the PE teacher and she spent her time pleading with groups to tell him she’d gone somewhere, whilst hiding whenever she spotted him approaching. He did get sacked or moved on eventually! My maths is still awful 😉
Then there’s Zac and Natalie, two people I really didn’t like, and Jess’ sister who was horrible but so very realistic. I did love when she was exhorting Zac to say something in Spanish and he tells her she’s clinically obese, while she preens thinking he’s being very flattering to her… Anna I just felt really was obsessive and not a great friend to Jess, either in the past or the present and as for her yoga guru, it seemed obvious to everyone except Anna she was a charlatan. There’s a few like that around, ready to work on people’s fears and gullibility to part them from their money. Then Smudge, poor, loyal Smudge. I was heartbroken for Jess over him.
The book gentles along, dipping into the past, showing us the view from two perspectives and moves forward showing us what they are thinking and feeling now. All the while I felt on the edge for them, even knowing the past had happened I was waiting for the axe, for someone to whistle blow, and wondering just who, how and when it would happen. Then in the “now” section it seemed as though they were still so in love, and I so wanted things to work for them but even after all they’d been through – and it was a lot on both sides – they still weren’t in a position to be together, the past was still haunting them.
That ending though – it was so abrupt, and I just can’t feel the story stops there. I need more, need to know what happens and I really, really hope there is more to come from them. It just feels unfinished to me. I’m sure it will be a perfect ending for others but I like things to be defined, to be certain and not ambiguous as it is here. *Shrug* that’s me, not everyone, but its why I want more.
Stars: Five, all the way. Please let there be more though, don’t let this be the end.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
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