A Secret Kept
Tatiana de Rosnay
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Buy *A Secret Kept* by Tatiana de Rosnay online

A Secret Kept
Tatiana de Rosnay
St. Martin's Griffin
352 pages
September 2011
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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The popular author of A Secret Kept, Tatiana de Rosnay once again probes how the past can collide with current day. At the start of the book, Parisian Antoine Rey has decided to take his sister, Mélanie, for a birthday weekend at a beloved childhood vacation spot, Noirmoutier Island. Until a modern bridge was built in 1971, the Island was only reachable through the Gois Passage at low tide. As Antoine reflects on the inconveniences and dangers of a causeway that had to be edged with rescue platforms, it becomes clear that de Rosnay is using the Gois to symbolize much more than advancing waters.

In fact, it is the Gois that sparks the younger Mélanie’s first clear memory of their early summers with a vivacious, beautiful mother who died nearly thirty years ago. As Antoine frets that his 40th birthday gift may have been unwise, stirring up latent sadness, Mélanie comforts him:

“ ‘Don’t be sorry…It’s bringing her back to me…..’

He wanted to let tears run down his cheeks, but he held them back in silence, reining in his emotions, the way he’d done all his life, the way he’d been taught to do.

…….She was right. Their mother was coming back to them slowly, like the seawater gliding over the Gois. Fragments of memories, like butterflies escaping from a net. Nothing chronological, nothing precise, but more like a nebulous, lazy dream.”
Leaving Noirmoutier Island, Mélanie starts to reveal a now vivid memory and becomes so upset she drives off the road, causing a near fatal accident. While she recovers in a rural hospital, Antoine finds his life, like the Gois passage at high tide, becoming flooded with startling realizations about not only his family of birth but also his ex-wife, his children and himself. Work dynamics and personal events rush in to further challenge Antoine’s beliefs, influence his actions, and change his hopes for the future.

For the most part, the author does an admirable job writing from a male perspective. She does, however, occasionally throw in an expletive as though she is remembering her main character is a man. Antoine is actually quite a submissive man, having been brought up in his father’s bourgeois family where he was encouraged to squelch his feelings, particularly upon the death of his loving, provincially-raised mother. Considering the book mostly covers the period of time when Antoine is recovering from the deviousness of his wife’s actions and his despair about the subsequent divorce, Antoine’s slow awakening seems realistic.

“For a long time I have felt like an Alcatraz inmate, desperately feeding on the scraps the wind sends my way --- laughter, singing, and music, the hubbub of a crowd I can hear but will never see.”
Angéle, the mortician working at the hospital where Mélanie is rehabilitating, is primarily responsible for re-engaging Antoine with his life. Toward the end of the book, he also proves up to the task of finally becoming a real father to his children, who are suffering both from the divorce and brutal life circumstances of their own.

The secret, when finally revealed, seems not surprising enough unless put in the context of these individual characters, this particular family, and the three decades of social change since the revelation concerning the lovely Clarisse was buried along with her body. Surprisingly, Mélanie, who initiated the unraveling of the family secret, refuses to be part of the finale. Antoine Rey wants no more secrets in his life, understandable since the last one blew apart his comfortable existence.

After recently watching the heartbreaking Sarah’s Key movie, I was hoping for even more historic context in this work. But I was pleasantly relieved that A Secret Kept is more of a modern family saga that ends with the promise of future happiness.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Leslie Raith, 2012

Also by Tatiana de Rosnay:

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