by Tatiana de Rosnay, Read by Simon Vance, 2010, Macmillan Audio
I was really looking forward to this novel as I really enjoyed Sarah’s Key. Also, I have really liked everything that Simon Vance has done previously. Oh, how I was disappointed!
Both Sarah’s Key and A Secret Kept have themes associated with a family secret that younger generations have been sheltered from. But, Sarah’s Key had an overarching theme which was the horror and guilt associated with a act that was taken to protect a sibling from being taken to a concentration camp. This is pretty heavy stuff. A Secret Kept, however, deals with a family secret associated with a parent having a same-sex affair that had been hidden and the shock and bewilderment that her children experience on discovering the details some thirty years after her death. The latter circumstances seem very pale and shallow compared to the implications of the former. The novel suffers a lot from a “who cares?” feeling, at least on my part.
The second issue is for me, unfortunately, the narrator. Simon Vance does a very good job narrating this story, but I am accustomed to having him bite his teeth into much meatier fare. The first-person character he portrays in this novel is a middle-aged man immersed in his family situation: divorce, messed-up kids, ex-wife’s infidelity, mother’s death, father unapproachable, difficult relationship with step-mother, father ill with cancer, mother’s affair with another woman, circumstances of his mother’s death, his sister’s accident, death of his daughter’s best friend, boredom with his job, incompetence of his secretary, unlikeable clients, torrid affair with attractive young woman, etc., etc. Good Grief! I am used to Simon portraying an individual in such novels as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo where he is involved in murder and suspense or portraying interesting characters in the classics of Dickens or Anthony Trollope. Because his voice is so familiar to me, I kept imagining his character as Mikael Blomkvist in the Girl with Dragon Tattoo. While his voice is compelling, the circumstances he deals with in this novel are pathetic.
de Rosnay’s first novel, Sarah’s Key, had the effect of propelling her to the front line of new authors. This one sends her to the back of the class.