The Secrets Between Us
Pan Macmillan, 20 Feb 2009
“A chance encounter: When Sarah meets dark, brooding Alex, she grasps his offer of a new life miles away from her own. They’ve both recently escaped broken relationships, and need to start again. Why not do it together?
A perfect life: But when Sarah gets to the tiny village of Burrington Stoke, something doesn’t add up. Alex’s beautiful wife Genevieve was charming, talented, and adored by all who knew her. And apparently, she and Alex had a successful marriage complete with a gorgeous son, Jamie. Why would Genevieve walk out on her perfect life? And why has no one heard from her since she did so?
A web of lies: Genevieve’s family and all her friends think that Alex knows more about her disappearance than he’s letting on. But Sarah’s fallen in love with him and just knows he couldn’t have anything to hide. Or could he?”
I have read Douglas’ first book The Love of My Life (review here) and loved it so knew I wanted to read more. I got this book for my 23rd birthday (yay!) after putting in on my Amazon wish list. After having a look online at her other titles I plan to read them all – but The Secrets Between Us really stood out to me. The blurb immediately made me want to know more and to find out the truth; so began my love affair with this book!
Douglas writes from the P.O.V of Sarah, a broken and vulnerable woman who has had her life torn apart by the loss of a child and infidelity. Sarah, like the other characters in the book, is well developed and her spontaneous and crazy actions can be justified wholly by her circumstances. The same can be said for the other main character Alex, who is equally as broken but who chooses instead to express his ‘brokeness’ by being mysterious, closed and guarded. This makes for a passionate, loving yet unstable relationship where ignorance prevails and secrets are rife.
Additionally, there are multiple layers, sub plots and relationships at play in the story. This keeps it interesting and makes it feel realistic and totally immersive.
Douglas does a good job of building tension, and I was particularly impressed by her ability to make me acutely suspicious of almost every character, sowing seeds of doubt and suspicion subtley throughout. She does this effortlessly through the use of Sarah, the narrator, who is emotionally unstable and therefore could be deemed unreliable – she is naive, muddled and full of doubt in herself. Sarah’s character grows and progresses throughout the story as one would hope in a good book – at the end she trusts her instincts and herself and she is able to allow herself to love fully again, which is fulfilling for me as a reader who loves a happy ending.
As mentioned before in my review of The Love of My Life, Douglas’ writing style is just how I like it – descriptive, full of of emotion and very natural. The pacing was good, and I must admit, towards the end I got so excited I skimmed over pages and pages of writing just to find out the ending – of course, I went back and read it all properly later – I just could not help myself!
In the novel, there are certain events that make it a little different to your everyday story – not a bad thing in my eyes, but I can see it may not be to everyones liking.
Douglas employs techniques that gives the story a little bit of a paranormal twist – well, she hints at it anyway. Granted, it is a small part of the story, but at the climax of the novel, it becomes very significant indeed. I feel the need to point out here that when I say paranormal twist, I am not talking about anything too crazy (ghosts, monsters or stuff like that), and it has nothing to do with religion. It is subtle, playing more on the idea of intuition as means to forebode the climax. Depending on who you are, this may not be for everybody (sceptics, I am looking at you) and it is certainly an acquired taste. Personally, my taste says I like it – in fact, I am exploring something similar (ish) for my own story. But you can make up your own mind.
The reason that these events are convincing to me is because of a few reasons:
- Convincing characterisation and circumstance – The main character Sarah is broken, and mentally vulnerable – we know that. Her dream-like apparitions, visions and thoughts could be seen as a manifestation of her vulnerability and maybe they are not even ‘paranormal’ at all.
- My own beliefs – My friends think I am crazy but often I have dreamt things and the next day they have happened, or I have had a passing thought that has turned out to be much more significant. So, to a degree, I can relate to Sarah in this way – again, these aren’t necessarily ‘paranormal’ but instead ‘intuitive’ – a much easier pill to swallow for the sceptics out there.
- It is a made up story, obviously – I think it is important to note that, regardless of where you sit on the topic, whether you are a believer, a non-believer or stuck on the fence – you can and very likely will, enjoy this book. There is so much at stake and so many developed relationships that you care about the characters, get sucked into the drama and keep turning the pages. I needed to find out what happened to Genevieve and who was responsible for such a heinous crime. At the end of the day, you don’t have to believe in magic to enjoy Harry Potter, or time travel to enjoy The Time Travellers Wife – The Secrets Between Us is no exception.
Needless to say I loved this book and enjoyed it very much. I plan on reading Douglas’ other books soon, and I have already brought Missing You. I find Douglas to be a brilliant author, and her writing style is one that I find easy to read and extremely natural. Bring on the next one!