A Secret Kept

( 303 )

Overview

Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie’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—over thirty years, since their mother died and the family holidays ceased.  But the island’s haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories; it reminds Mélanie of something unexpected and deeply disturbing about their last island...

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Overview

Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie’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—over thirty years, since their mother died and the family holidays ceased.  But the island’s haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories; it reminds Mélanie 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.

Trapped in the wake of a family secret shrouded by taboo, Antoine must confront his past and also his troubled relationships with his own children.  How well does he really know his mother, his children, even himself?  Suddenly fragile on all fronts – as a son, a husband, a brother and a father – Antoine Rey will soon learn the shocking truth about his family and himself.

By turns thrilling and seductive, with a lingering effect that is bittersweet and redeeming, A Secret Kept is the story of a modern family and the invisible ties that hold it together.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Together, de Rosnay and Simon Vance guide us through a sister and brother’s traumatic search for the real cause of their mother’s death some 30 years before. Vance is a reader’s reader, and he narrates de Rosnay’s novel with nuanced tones, rhythms, cadences, and subtle modulations, intonations and pauses to etch each character indelibly in the reader’s memory. He has the rare ability to do convincing women’s voices without sounding silly, and his French is very good (though his American accents are slightly overblown). A St. Martin’s hardcover (Reviews, July 26). (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Praise for A Secret Kept:

 

"The story of an emotionally distant family as it struggles to come to grips with changing dynamics and the mysterious death of a young mother many years ago[...] De Rosnay’s writing is eloquent and beautiful, and her characterizations are both honest and dead-on[...]" -Kirkus

"A Secret Kept is a beautiful and haunting exploration of wanting - and not wanting - to understand one's past, of learning to see parents as individuals, whether the parents in question are our own or ourselves."  -Erica Bauermeister, bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients

"In A Secret Kept, Tatiana de Rosnay takes us on a journey to that haunted place where the past seeps into the present, where memory appears and disappears, and where healing seems always out of reach. With her lyrical prose and her gift for creating deeply sympathetic characters, de Rosnay has given us a hopeful story, as addictive as it is moving." -Diane Chamberlain, New York Times bestselling author of Summer’s Child

 

Praise for Sarah’s Key

 "A haunting, riveting novel... This book grabs your heart in the opening chapter, and its scenes and characters stay with you long after you finish." —Publishers Weekly, a PW 2008 Staff Pick

“Masterly and compelling, it is not something that readers will quickly forget. Highly recommended.”-Library Journal, Starred Review

"A wonderful book." —Joy Behar, The View 

“This is the shocking, profoundly moving and morally challenging story...  It will haunt you, it will help to complete you… nothing short of miraculous.”  -Augusten Burroughs, New York Times bestselling author of You Better Not Cry and A Wolf At the Table

“Just when you thought you might have read about every horror of the Holocaust, a book will come along and shine a fierce light upon yet another haunting wrong.  Sarah’s Key is such a novel.  In remarkably unsparing, unsentimental prose... through a lens so personal and intimate, it will make you cry—and remember.” -Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us

“Exceptional, emotional, and compelling…” – Sacramento Bee

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312553494
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/13/2011
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 101,811
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Tatiana de Rosnay is the author of ten novels, including the New York Times bestselling novel Sarah’s Key, an international bestselling sensation with over two million copies sold in thirty-five countries worldwide.  Together with Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, and Stieg Larsson, she was named one of the top ten fiction writers in Europe in 2009.  Tatiana lives with her husband and two children in Paris, where she is at work on her next novel.  Visit her online at www.tatianaderosnay.com.

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Read an Excerpt

A SECRET KEPT (Chapter One)

I am shown into a small, drab room, told to sit down and wait. Six empty brown plastic chairs face each other on tired linoleum. In a corner, a fake green plant, shiny leaves coated with dust. I do as I am told. I sit down. My thighs tremble. My palms feel clammy, my throat parched. My head throbs. I think, I should call our father now, I should call him before it gets too late. But my hand makes no effort to grab the phone in the pocket of my jeans. Call our father and tell him what? Tell him how?

The lighting is harsh, glaring strips of neon barring the ceiling. The walls are yellowish and cracked. I sit there, numb. Helpless. Lost. I long for a cigarette. I wonder if I am going to retch, bring up the bitter coffee and stale brioche I had a couple of hours ago.

I can still hear the screech of the wheels, feel the sudden lurch of the car as it veered sharply to the right, careening into the railing. And her scream. I can still hear her scream.

How many people have waited here? I think. How many people have sat where I am sitting now and waited for news of their loved ones? I cannot help imagining what these jaundiced walls have seen. What they know. What they remember. Tears, shouts, or relief. Hope, pain, or joy.

The minutes click by. I watch the round face of a grimy clock above the door. There is nothing else for me to do but wait.

After half an hour or so, a nurse comes in. She has a long, horsey face, skinny white arms.

"Monsieur Rey?"

"Yes," I say, my heart in my mouth.

"You need to fill out these papers. With her details."

She hands me a couple of sheets and a pen.

"Is she all right?" I mumble.

My voice seems thin and strained.

She flickers watery, lashless eyes over me.

"The doctor will tell you. The doctor will come."

She leaves. She has a sad, flat ass.

I spread the sheets of paper over my knees with trembling fingers.

Name, birth date and place, marital status, address, social security number, health insurance number. My hand still shakes as I print out "Mélanie Rey, born August 15, 1967, at Boulogne-Billancourt, single, 49 rue de la Roquette, Paris 75011."

I have no idea what my sister's social security number is. Or her health insurance number for that matter. All that stuff must be in her bag. Where is her bag? I can't remember anything about her bag. Just the way her body slumped forward when they hauled her out of the car. The way her limp arms hung down to the ground from the stretcher. And there I was, not a hair out of place, not a bruise on my skin, and I had been sitting right next to her. I flinch. I keep thinking I am going to wake up.

The nurse comes back with a glass of water. I gulp it down. It has a metallic, stale taste. I thank her. I tell her I don't have Mélanie's social security number. She nods, takes the sheets, and leaves.

The minutes inch by. The room is silent. It is a small hospital. A small town, I guess. In the suburbs of Nantes. I'm not quite sure where. I stink. No air-conditioning. I can smell the sweat trickling under my armpits, gathering around my groin. The sweaty, meaty smell of despair and panic. My head still throbs. I try breathing calmly. I manage to do this for a couple of minutes. Then the helpless, awful feeling takes over and swamps me.

Paris is more than three hours away. I wonder again if I should call my father. I tell myself I need to wait. I don't even know what the doctor has to say. I glance down at my watch. Ten thirty. Where would our father be now? I wonder. At some dinner party? Or watching cable TV in his study, with Régine in the next room, on the phone, painting her nails?

I decide to wait a little longer. I am tempted to call my ex-wife. Astrid's name is still the first one that pops up in times of stress or despair. But the thought of her with Serge, in Malakoff, in our old house, in our old bed, with him invariably answering the phone, even her mobile, for Christ's sake--"Oh, hi, Antoine, what's up, man?"--is just too much. So I don't call Astrid, although I long to.

I stay in the small, stuffy room and try once more to remain calm. Try to stop the panic rising within me. I think of my kids. Arno in all his teenage glory and rebellion. Margaux, a creature of mystery at fourteen. Lucas, still a baby at eleven, compared with the other two and their raging hormones. I simply cannot imagine myself telling them, "Your aunt is dead. Mélanie is dead. My sister is dead." The words make no sense. I push them away.

Another hour creeps by. I sit there, my head in my hands. I try to sort out the mess building up in my mind. I start thinking about the deadlines I need to keep. Tomorrow is Monday, and after this long weekend, there are many urgent things to be done--that unpleasant Rabagny and his god-awful day-care center I should not have taken on; Florence, that hopeless assistant I know I have to fire. But how can I possibly think of this? I realize, appalled at myself. How can I think of my job now, at this precise moment when Mélanie is somewhere between life and death? I say to myself with a sinking heart, Why Mélanie? Why her? Why not me? This trip had been my idea. My present for her birthday. That fortieth birthday she was so upset about.

A woman of my age comes in at last. A green operating blouse and one of those funny little paper hats surgeons wear. Shrewd hazel eyes, short chestnut hair touched with silver. She smiles. My heart leaps. I rush to my feet.

"That was a close call, Monsieur Rey," she says.

I notice small brown stains on the front of her uniform. I wonder with dread whether those stains are Mélanie's blood.

"Your sister is going to be all right."

To my horror, my face crumples up, tears spill out. My nose runs. I am acutely embarrassed to be crying in front of this woman, but I can't prevent it.

"It's okay," the doctor says. She grips my arm. She has small, square hands. She pushes me back down into the chair, sits beside me. I bawl the way I used to when I was a kid, deep sobs that come from the gut.

"She was driving, right?"

I nod, try to tidy up my damp nostrils with the back of my hand.

"We know she wasn't drinking. We checked that. Can you tell me what happened?"

I manage to repeat what I told the police and the ambulance people earlier on. That my sister wanted to drive the rest of the way home. That she was a reliable driver. That I had never been nervous with her at the wheel.

"Did she black out?" asks the doctor. The name on her badge reads: DR. BÉNÉDICTE BESSON.

"No, she didn't."

And then it comes back to me. Something I had not told the ambulance people, because I only remember it just now.

I look down at the doctor's small, tanned face. My own face is still twitching with the crying. I catch my breath.

"My sister was in the middle of telling me something. . . . She turned to me. And then it happened. The car drove off the highway. It happened so fast."

The doctor urges me on.

"What was she telling you?"

Mélanie's eyes. Her hands clasping the wheel. Antoine, there's something I need to say. I've kept it back all day. Last night, at the hotel, I remembered something. Something about . . . Her eyes, troubled, worried. And then the car driving off the road.

A SECRET KEPT. Copyright 2009, 2010 by Tatiana de Rosnay.

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Reading Group Guide

A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay
Book club questions


1) Discuss the different narrative structures employed in A Secret Kept.  What do you think the author intended to achieve with each? Do you prefer one over the others? 

 
2) How does the author describe the classic, wealthy 16th arrondissement of Paris-where Blanche Rey's apartment and the avenue Kleber one are located-as opposed to where Antoine lives, on the Left bank?  What does this tell you about the Rey family?

 
3) Part of the novel takes place on Noirmoutier Island which is connected to the west coast of France by the Gois Passage.  Why is Antoine so attached to Gois Passage?  Do you see any parallels between the author's descriptions of this place and the story as a whole?

 
4)  What was your impression of Antoine at the beginning of the book?  What about at the end?  Over the course of the novel, how does he change and what does he learn about himself?

 
5) Discuss the different themes and imagery of death that come up in the novel and that Antoine has to face. Did you find them morbid? Or realistic?

 
6) Did you like the character of the sexy, streewise mortician Angèle Rouvatier?  What makes her different from other heroines and what do you think she represents?  In what ways does she have a hand in the changes in Antoine's character?

 
7) François and Antoine Rey are two opposite personalities, as fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons.  Discuss specific differences you see.  Do you believe Antoine will ever get through to his father?  What exactly do you think François knows about Clarisse, her life, her death?

8) Clarisse Rey is the invisible woman of this book.  Yet her letters, photos, and the film that Antoine watches at the end, as well as Gaspard's confession, gradually expose her. What kind of woman was she?  What do we learn about her? Compare her to Angèle, Melanie, and Astrid.

 
9) How do Melanie and Antoine react differently when they discover the truth about their mother and her death?  Why do you think that Melanie chooses not to remember?  Do you think you would react more like Melanie or Antoine?

 
10) This novel explores taboo subjects and family secrets in a conservative French bourgeois society.  Discuss those subjects and whether they would be taboo if the novel were set in the USA.  What do you think really happened the day Clarisse went to confront Blanche?

 
11) Do you personally believe that family secrets should be revealed or hidden forever? In cases like the novel's, do you think the truth is more painful than lying?

12) If you have read Sarah's Key-also by de Rosnay-can you point to any themes that are found in both books?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 303 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(65)

4 Star

(94)

3 Star

(73)

2 Star

(45)

1 Star

(26)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 306 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 22, 2010

    Although the cover is similar in look to Sarah's Key, De Rosnay's prior book, it is entirely different, but just as engaging.

    First, I would like to remark about the cover of the book. There is a woman walking down a street. The stark contrast of her wide, flaring coat against the narrow cobble-stoned road, is beautiful and evokes memories of the child in the red coat against a black and white background in Schindler's List. That picture of that child, with all of its implications about the nightmare to come, in that story, remained indelibly in my mind's eye and made me wonder if there wasn't some hidden sadness, locked deep within the pages of this book, as well. My suspicions were correct. One of the main characters of the book makes only a brief appearance in the early chapters. For the remainder of the book, it is her absence and the circumstances surrounding it, that is the main theme of the novel.
    For his sister Clarisse's 40th birthday, Antonio takes her on a trip to their childhood vacation spot. His family enjoyed several summers there until their mother died suddenly and, for them, mysteriously. The resort town sparks a memory in his sister's mind, which is so strong and so difficult to deal with that she drives off the road and is seriously injured. The remainder of the book is really about Tonio and Melanie's search to find out more about their mother, her past and her death. There are no pictures of her and they know little about her. Their father shut down after her death. Shortly after, he remarried and their mom's memory was basically erased.
    During the course of the story we meet many characters, Tonio's family and his children, friends, relatives and colleagues. There are many characters and there was a point where I was confused about the identity of some of them but eventually, they all fell into place and lent themselves well to this very original and creative tale. The characters are interesting in and of themselves. The scenes and locales are described very well by the author and it is easy to be absorbed into the events of the moment, with the images clearly pictured in one's mind.
    The story is a tale of loss, love and learning. The characters have to explore themselves and come to terms with their own shortcomings and strengths. It is about learning how to deal with life's unexpected tragedies and difficult moments. It is about dealing with and accepting death and the circumstances surrounding it. It is also about growing up, becoming independent and learning to accept responsibility. It is about attitude and attitude adjustment. I think on a larger scale, it is a story about the trials of life and how we choose to live it.
    The book touches all of our senses and emotions but is neither too tense or too laid back. It strikes the right chord and so it is engrossing and easy to read. It is a mystery, a love story and a tale of secrets and their effects on the lives of others.

    38 out of 43 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2011

    SECRET....BUT WHO CARES???

    A Secret Kept was an entertaining book to read.After reading De Rosnay's first book , Sarah's Key, which was so well written and such a good story, this one left me kind of disappointed. In A Secret Kept, De Rosney wrote the story from a man's point of view. Sometimes this just did not ring true, knowing the book was written by a woman. There were times this man was just too sensitive in certain situations. Maybe this reviewer is too jaded. As for the big secret.... it was not that big of a secret. This will not keep me from reading her third book. I like the way she writes... takes one down the streets of Paris with each book. It is worth the time to read, just don't expect another story like Sarah's Key.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2010

    Not worth it

    I kept waiting for something exciting to happen but everything was predictable. I knew early on what the secret was. I am glad I read Sarah's Key first or I probably wouldn't have bothered after this book. I just got through it hoping it would get better and more interesting.

    11 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Entertaining!!

    This was a good book, but not a Sarah's Key. Just like Key it shifts from past to present as a family grapples with a family secret. This is entertaining and De Rosnay keeps you hooked.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2012

    Disappointing

    This is a very slow moving book. None of the characters are appealing. I liked Sara's Key. Everyone in my book club agreed this was a disappointment.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2011

    An inch deep and a mile wide

    I can say nothing to recommend it. Boring right up to the end.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    great writing however...

    the story line was predictable...and...dragged-out. The ending had no really excitement or "conclusion"; NOT really a disappointment but this story should have been better. Sarah's Key was/is incredibly-written. What happened...?

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting reading--walk back in history

    I read this book and was very entertained by the story line and the lesson in recent history. The story kept my interest and educated me at the same time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2012

    Highly Recommend

    A bit slow in the beginning; however, if you can get through the first 100 pages or so, the book becomes addictive and you can't put it down.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2011

    Check it out

    Couldn't wait to see how it ended. Must read

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2012

    This book is not as good as I hoped it would be. I like her wrti

    This book is not as good as I hoped it would be. I like her wrting style, the details of the scenes that become vivid, but the plot was too thin, and most of the characters seemed to be one-dimensional. Angele seemed to be the most complex character, but I just could not believe that she found Antoine so intriguing. The author also used a few words that were not used in an appropriate manner, which surprised me. I did like the book as far as the framework and how death plays such a major role, but I had wished that the plot had been better. This book makes me wonder whether her next one is even worth reading. She seems to stretch a one-note theme to its limit, so I do not think I will read any more of her books. Her talent seems to lie in her ability to describe surroundings, but not enough real meat on the people themselves.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    A really good read.

    This is a really good book, totally different from Sarah's Key, which I also loved. Some authors books become very predictable after you read a couple' but Tatiana deRosnay's books are totally different from each other. In this book you can't wait to find out what happened to this family, and that's all I'm saying, I don't want to give anything away. Read it you will love it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2012

    Very good

    Thoroughly enjoyed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2012

    Highly Recommended !

    I Really enjoyed this book as I did with Sarah's Key. Once again there are family secrets that come to light and affect each character differently. There are some unexpected twists that may surprise you. Enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2012

    Outstanding

    Very well written

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Probably One of My Least Favorite Reads

    I wanted to like this book, I really did. I think Tatiana de Rosnay is a fabulously talented writer but this book left so much to be desired. First of all, there was the really weird relationship between Antoine and his sister. OK, perhaps there wasn’t a “relationship” per se, but he admired his sister’s body in ways that made me more than just a little bit uncomfortable.

    And speaking of Antoine, I thought he was too whiny. About everything. I wanted to grab him by the collar, shake him and tell him to man up! I know parents feel guilt over divorcing and they have a hard time reprimanding their children, but allowing them to become juvenile delinquents is not the answer.

    Also, without giving away the family secret, I think a homicide would have been a far better choice…

    The one positive in this story had to be Angèle. She warrants her own story. I like the way she talked about death and how we have to come to grips with the death of loved ones and the fact that we won’t always have answer to the “whys” of life.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Sarah's Key--it isn't

    I was excited to see de Rosnay offer a new book because I was thoroughly engaged by (on a variety of levels) her prvious book, Sarah's Key. I am disappointed by A Secret Kept. The characters seem flat, with a whiney protagonist that is often irritating. The slow pace makes the plot seem tedious with little to keep me engaged save for the occasional flashbacks. I enjoy books set in France so this is a positive, but even the quirky French culture is virtually ignored here. In short, I was disappointed but urge readers to make the time for Sarah's Key.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2011

    Great book

    This book is really good. Although i woild not recommened for children under the age of14.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2011

    Disappointing

    This book is nowhere near as engaging as Sarah's key. It is not worth the time necessary to slog through it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2011

    Not so good

    I was highly disappointed. There was too much babble & whinning for me. I found myself skipping pages. Hoping to get to a good/exciting part, which never came. I will not recommend this book to my friends. Loved Sarah's Key!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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