A Secret Kept

A Secret Kept

by Tatiana de Rosnay

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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!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312553494
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 09/13/2011
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 256,852
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

TATIANA DE ROSNAY is the author of more than ten novels, including the New York Times bestselling novel Sarah’s Key, an international sensation with over 9 million copies sold in forty-two countries worldwide that has now been made into a major film. Tatiana lives with her husband and two children in Paris.

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.

Reading Group Guide

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 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?

Customer Reviews

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A Secret Kept 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 313 reviews.
DaniKY More than 1 year ago
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.
barj01 More than 1 year ago
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.
bling1 More than 1 year ago
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.
teacher47 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really good. Although i woild not recommened for children under the age of14.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is nowhere near as engaging as Sarah's key. It is not worth the time necessary to slog through it.
Carol Francis More than 1 year ago
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!
Carrie1230 More than 1 year ago
It was like reading my neighbors diary. Don't really want to know his family history. We all have one. My life and history is more exciting.
WIBookWorm More than 1 year ago
This was very hard for me to read. It had moments and I thought finally we have something interesting but it was short lived. Too many pages of blah. I miss the writer who wrote Sarahs Key.
betgrek More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was predictable and not cleverly written. Shouldn't mystery novels all be cleverly written? I think any book that gets my approval should be well written and have a good story line. This had neither. B minus
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never thought I would be interested in French writters, but once I read her 1st book I was hooked! And her 2nd book is even better, twist and turns between what happened and trying to deal with all the drama is almost mind blowing! - MUST READ!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a+good++read++can%27t++put++it+down++
craftimommi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was really looking forward to reading this book as i enjoyed this authors previous book "Sarahs Key" a good read. Unfortunately i had to force myself to finish this one and i did so, to be able to write this review. The plot has an improbable number of deaths and funerals. Almost as if the author couldnt think of another way to tie the story together. It was a disappointment.
susiesharp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Poor Antoine what a midlife crisis he¿s having not only dealing with his own feelings about his divorce, his ex-wife and his children but it seems that everyone around him is having a crisis of their own. Antoine is going through what I think every divorced parent goes through with their children. What is nice is it is from his POV there are so many books out there about what women go through in a divorce it was refreshing to hear the father¿s side.This is the story of a brother and sister trying to remember the life of their mother but this book is so much more than that. It is about the family dynamic and the lies parents tell their kids to keep them happy. Which brings me to the question was Antoine better off knowing about his mother¿s past? Did it change or fix anything? Did he really achieve any closure?This was a good book I really liked Antoine and I did leave it caring about him but I just felt like the secret could have gone on being a secret as the revealing of it didn¿t seem to really amount to anything.Beautifully read by, Simon Vance3 ½ Stars
detcheverry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
great read - hard to put down - Antonio seeks answers from his mother's past while dealing with his children, his sister (her accident) and all issues after divorce from his wife.
Cecilturtle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rosnay does a great job of creating a air of mystery about a woman gone - so good, in fact, it reminded me quite a bit of DuMaurier's Rebecca, that adulated young woman who is not whom she seems to be. I found Antoine credible as we follow him through his quest of finding out the truth, struggling with his history and family. The extraneous plots - like his new found wealth and Pauline's death - were, in my mind, unnecessary. Similarly, the theme of death was just too exploited (carcasses, deaths, a mortician... really?) and almost became laughable in the end. However, I really enjoyed the unfolding of the family's relationships and dramas, the uncertainties and the beautiful love story that reshaped a boy and his sister.A word about the English: when I was reading the scenes in Noirmoutier, in particular, I struggled with the words. Having spent all my summers in France, I found it unnatural to read about these memories in English and found myself translating them into French! It is a testimony, I think, of Rosnay's mastery of her two languages and of her ability of transposing a culture into another language.
sydamy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was nervous to read this, as I loved the authors first book, Sarah's Key, and did not want to be disappointed. I am apparently in the minority as I really enjoyed this book. High brow literature it isn't, but a good book? most definitely. It is a completely different type of book from Sarah's Key. Although many sad things do happen. After a birthday weekend with his sister, to a childhood resort, Antoine, a divorced father, digs into his past and tries to find out about his mother. She died when he was a young boy, and no one has talked about her since her death. Along the way, he finds himself and learns to accept his life. Death is a recurring theme, and they way different people handle it help Antoine grow. I will confidently pass this book to friends, knowing they would enjoy it.
bhowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I agree with many of the comments made by other Librarything reviewers. This is a good diverting read for the beach/airplane but not very literary. Nevertheless, I think that the character development of Antoine Rey was skillfully handled by the author and that this book is better overall than "Sarah's Key" which I have also read. Ms. De Rosnay can write a good story which entertains us and she is only going to get better. Antoine is a newly divorced father of two struggling with loneliness in his newly single life, and bored and uninspired at work. He takes his sister for a weekend trip to the north coast of France for her birthday. Their stay in the charming resort village awakens mostly happy memories of their holidays there when they were young children and their mother was alive. On the long drive back to Paris, the sister remembers something that causes her to lose control of the car and a terrible accident occurs. In the aftermath, Antoine becomes obsessed with the mysterious early death of their mother and searches for answers. The secrets of the Reys family are gradually laid bare. At the hospital waiting for his sister to come out of surgery, Antoinne meets his new love interest, Angele, and she is, I agree, a contrived silly character...still, amusing.I suspect that in French the writing may be more skillful. I noticed that in portions of the book the clusters of short sentences appear clumsy but in French that can be utterly charming and natural. And the translator loves to dangle those prepositions.I have now passed the book on to my daughter-in -law and will be interested in her comments.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Antoine Rey, recently divorced father of three. He still loves his ex-wife, struggles to relate to his teenaged children, and has no relationship to speak of with his father. As his sister Melanie turns 40, he decides to surpise her with a trip to the vacation town they went to as children up until the time their mother (Clarisse) died in her mid-thirties. The "secret" is about Clarisse's death. As the book opens, Melanie suddenly remembers something from the past and is about to tell Antoine when she loses control of the car.This was a light read. I found the plot somewhat interesting. The secret was, in my opinion, hardly earthshattering -- though it may have been to young children. I kept wondering if there would be more, but there wasn't.Similarly, the characters were only somewhat interesting. They seemed either stereotyped (teenagers), under-developed (Melanie) or simply unbelievable (girlfriend Angele).The one bright light in this book was Antoine himself. The author did a good job of portraying the struggles of a middle-aged man examining the meaning of his past and his prospects for the future.
lkernagh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This proved to be a fast, non brain-taxing read that I finished in a quick 36 hours. I had an enormously difficult time trying to connect with the main character, Antoine Rey and unfortunately, felt that the portrayal of his midlife crisis - I really cannot call it anything else - was overshadowing the plot of trying to uncover the family secret that had been kept silent from both Antoine and his sister Melanie for decades. The sections regarding uncovering the family secret were intriguing and had potential but the two plots - Antoine's midlife crisis and the family secret - didn't mesh together very well IMO. I think the story would have been better if one of the plots had been given proper main focus. Either way, I think the story then would have had a better chance of becoming a captivating read, instead of the family drama/mystery wrangle-fest I felt it was.
MargaretdeBuhr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sooooo disappointing - Her first book is one of my all time favorite books so I could hardly wait to get my hands on this one. There is nothing to it. I kept waiting up to the last page for something to happen or be revealed.,