Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Keeping of Secrets by Alice Graysharp, here’s the blurb –
Genre – Historical Fiction
Length – 289 Pages
Publication – 5th September 2017
My Rating – 5/5 Stars
The keeper of family secrets, Patricia Roberts grows up isolated and lonely. Trust no one and you won’t be disappointed is her motto. Three men fall in love with her and she learns to trust, only to find that their agendas are not her own. With secrets concealed from her by the ultimate love of her life, and with her own secret to keep, duplicity and deceit threaten their relationship. In a coming of age story set against the sweeping backdrop of the Second World War – evacuation, the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, buzz bombs and secret war work – Patricia ultimately has to decide whether to reveal her deepest held secret for the sake of her future happiness.
The Keeping of Secrets is a coming of age tale that unfolds as World War II erupts.
Now I’m going to start this review off a little differently than usual. I’m going to talk about the end of the story first. I’ll admit stories can really move me at times but this one literally made me shed a tear at the end, I was so racked with emotion. I’m telling you this now as I really want you to know just how moved I was by this one.
The story follows Pat, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood. Set in the backdrop of World War II it really made me consider what it must have been like growing up at that time, being shipped off for your own safety, not knowing if your parents are safe and well.
There’s a lot of emotion in this tale, love and lust high up there. At first Pat needs to fend off an unwanted love interested then when she finds someone she likes he moves a little fast but leaves a lasting impression. Obviously I wasn’t alive at the time but I could really understand the urgency placed on love at the time..the uncertainty..the fear.
Pat is a strong person but she holds her cards close to her chest, she doesn’t open up easily so trust needs to be earned. The most amazing thing about Pat is her determination to have a career rather than settle for being a housewife. It showed the attitudes at the time and how things have changed since.
We follow Pat’s life through the ups and downs, the anxiety and fear everyone must have been feeling so we see her forced to grow up rather quickly.
I’m no lover of romance, I’ve always made that clear but this one is done perfectly as it’s encompassed by the sheer emotion of the time. It’s an historical fiction book about life and love during what would have been a very hard period to live in for all. Wonderfully written, so much so I flew through the book .
Alice Graysharp has given readers a wonderfully emotive tale that will sick with you.
I received a copy of the book for a review but I loved it so much I bought a copy too. My thanks go to Authoright and the author for the chance to be part of the blog tour.
Alice has very kindly wrote a piece on the inspiration behind the book, I hope you enjoy it –
Family History as Inspiration behind The Keeping of Secrets
Until I became closely involved in another family through marriage I thought all families constantly reminisced about past events and long dead relatives in such vivid and immediate terms that you felt somehow you’d been there too or known them personally. I don’t know if my family was unusual, but certainly my childhood was steeped in such reminiscences, often told with humour and irony.
Many were of the Second World War, like the night, following a series of raids, my paternal grandfather (who was a shoe repairer by day and an air raid warden by night) was determined to have a bath, but every time he was about to hop in the siren sounded again and this continued through the night so that he never got his bath after all. I recall my grandparents laughing uproarously as they told the story. Or the time my father dived beneath an armoured vehicle as enemy fighters swooped only to find himself stuck when the raid was over and having to wait for his army mates to jack the vehicle up to release him. Not so amusing, though, was the one of my mother in the dentist’s chair, her close brush with death bringing a chill to the spine.
In 2011 I took my widowed mother to the Spring Meeting of St Martin-in-the-Fields Old Girls’ Association held at the school. Having never been there before I was astonished by the school’s elegant Georgian building and its sense of history. That and driving around the streets of Brixton where my mother grew up brought me a three dimensional aspect to the past – Acre Lane, Water Lane, Brockwell Park, Tulse Hill, to name but a few places I’d heard of so often, all echoes from my mother’s and my grandparents’ lives experienced vicariously.
Later that year, realising my mother was not getting any older and wanting to capture her stories for all time, over a series of Sunday afternoon visits I took notes as my mother recalled her wartime experiences, which I wrote up as a narrative and which she read and approved for publication. I also wrote the first term’s evacuation experiences as a short fictionalised biography.
In 2015, following my mother’s death, I thought to write a novelised memoir based on these recollections in her honour. However, in adapting the short story and planning out how to move it on to become a full book, I found the main character was proving not to be the same person as my mother but instead a person with a life of her own and her own story to tell. So I moved away from the ‘memoir’ approach and instead came to regard the information I had amassed rather as source material for a novel. This gave me the opportunity to take the storyline and the characters in it where I felt they would go, my parents’ and grandparents’ recollections being my inspiration rather than my text.
Thus while I have identified the evacuated school St Martin-in-the-Fields and I quoted from the school song, all the teachers and pupils depicted in the novel are the product of my imagination. Further, St Birstan’s school is wholly a figment of my imagination. While my mother’s school was evacuated to Leatherhead, there is no school there by the name of St Birstan’s, not the buildings or the location described, and the St Birstan’s pupils referred to are entirely my invention.
However, I thought the story of the night in the theatre was too good to miss out. When we went to that theatre in the 1980s my mother pointed out the wall against which she had lain, just as in the novel, with her mother outside her and her father outside them, ‘to protect my virtue.’
The Beaver Club did exist and my grandmother worked there during the War. A poignant reminder remains with my family, a square of lace given to her by a Canadian soldier on leave in late 1944 or early 1945 who had taken pity on one of many starving Belgians lining the roads during the Allied advance desperate to sell anything for food, and bought it from them.
In an era now where oral tradition is virtually lost and many people know little of the generations that went before them, I hope The Keeping of Secrets provides a window into the lives of ordinary people like my mother living through those extraordinary times.