A Secret Kept

A Secret Kept

3.4 306
by Tatiana de Rosnay
     
 

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This stunning new novel from Tatiana de Rosnay, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller Sarah’s Key, plumbs the depths of complex family relationships and the power of a past secret to change everything in the present.

It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood. Antoine Rey

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Overview

This stunning new novel from Tatiana de Rosnay, author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller Sarah’s Key, plumbs the depths of complex family relationships and the power of a past secret to change everything in the present.

It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood. 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.

Recovering from the accident in a nearby hospital, Mélanie tries to recall what caused her to crash. Antoine encounters an unexpected ally: sexy, streetwise Angèle, a mortician who will teach him new meanings for the words life, love and death. Suddenly, however, the past comes swinging back at both siblings, burdened with a dark truth about their mother, Clarisse.  

Trapped in the wake of a shocking 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 learn the truth about his family and himself the hard way.

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

A film is now in production, to star Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds, Now You See Me), Laurent Lafitte (The Crimson Rivers, Little White Lies), and Audrey Dana (Roman de Gare, The Clink of Ice) and will begin shooting in April!

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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

Library Journal
Bound to become a best seller, de Rosnay's latest (after Sarah's Key) is a taut, suspenseful, elegant novel with a secret at its heart that has the power to destroy one of the most wealthy families in contemporary Paris. As it begins, Antoine Rey, our narrator, is in a hospital waiting room eager to hear whether his beloved sister, Melanie, survived the car crash that brought him there. The two were driving back to Paris after a weekend at Noirmoutier Island, a getaway planned by Antoine as a surprise for Melanie's 40th birthday. As they reprise memories of the Rey family vacations on the island, including one trip shortly before their mother died, Melanie realizes the truth of the old family mystery, revealed as bits of memory pieced together along with a bit of detective work. This startling revelation causes her to drive the car off the road, endangering her life and her brother's. By the end of the story, Antoine, Melanie, and their friends and family suffer several deaths, culminating in a vision for the future that makes life and their fleeting moments of happiness all the more precious.Verdict The reader will immediately become submerged in the world de Rosnay so beautifully creates and will turn the pages quickly; it's not hard to imagine downing this in one or two sittings. Different from the historical Sarah's Key but with as profound an effect; highly recommended and bravo!—Lisa Rohrbaugh, National Coll. Lib., Youngstown, OH

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews

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.

Like de Rosnay's bestselling Sarah's Key (2007), this novel is set in Paris, but while her earlier novel explored a national tragedy, this one tackles a personal one. Antoine Rey, son of the famous attorney, and his sister, Mélanie, are returning from a visit to the family's old summer vacation stomping grounds when Mélanie tells her brother she has remembered something important about their mother's death. She promptly steers the car into a wreck, putting herself in the hospital, unable to remember the important detail she once recalled. Antoine sits vigil by his sister's side, trying to figure out what has gone wrong with his life: His wife has left him for another man, of his three children only one seems to like him anymore, and he is tired of dating vacuous young women. His father, who comes from a well-known Parisian family, is old, paunchy and distant—a complete shadow of the man who was married to the gorgeous Clarisse. Clarisse, Antoine and Mélanie's mother, died when they were small children, supposedly succumbing to an aneurism in their apartment, but when Antoine starts questioning the version of her death they have always accepted as the truth, he stumbles upon some disturbing possibilities. In the meantime, he becomes involved in a relationship with a woman his own age who impresses him with her independence and sexuality, squares off against his eldest son and helps his daughter through a tough loss of her own. De Rosnay's writing is eloquent and beautiful, and her characterizations are both honest and dead-on—anyone with a teenager will recognize the parental angst Antoine experiences as genuine. But the plot meanders to a conclusion that seems anticlimactic at best, a letdown at worst—the secret is hardly worth the trouble it causes.

For any other writer this would be a fine novel, but de Rosnay's fans will expect more than the central character's aimless journey.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312593315
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
09/14/2010
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
627,576
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

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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