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Friday, 2 March 2007

'Past Secrets' by Cathy Kelly

I am a big Cathy Kelly fan. I don’t know what it is about her. She has a storytelling voice that I much prefer to Maeve Binchy, which is a big statement to make if you live in Ireland. Her characters are always likeable and well-written. There are always elements of suspense in her books that keep you reading. And she deals with so many universal themes. So instead of waiting for ‘Past Secrets’ to come out in paperback, I bought the hardback and it was well worth the price.

‘Past Secrets’ is a novel encompassing a few intertwining stories about the different people living on Summer Street. There is the widow Faye who is trying to raise a teenage daughter Amber. Amber ends up running away to the US with her wannabe rock star boyfriend causing a huge furore. There is Christie, the art teacher at St. Ursula’s secondary school, who everyone comes to for advice. Maggie ends up back home from Galway after her partner Grey cheats on her to look after her sick mother. All the characters have secrets that are to be revealed through the course of the novel.

As always, I loved these characters, each and every one of them. They aren’t particularly multi-dimensional, but they come across as the people you pass everyday on the way to work. Ordinary people living ordinary lives. My favourite character would be Christie. She is probably the most developed in this book. She is a long time married to James her loving husband. What James doesn’t know is that Christie had an affair years ago when they were going through a rough patch. Christie’s dilemma in this book is that Carey, the artist she slept with, is back in town and is making advances towards her. Finally her secret might have to come out. I loved Christie because she was a lovely woman who made a mistake. She’s only human after all, and that was a theme that I think Cathy Kelly put across very well in ‘Past Secrets.’

Then there is Faye. She has been alone for years. One of the main things stopping her from going on the dating scene again is that her daughter Amber idolises the father she can’t remember. Amber still believes that her dad died in a tragic accident. The truth is that Faye got pregnant in her teens to a druggie who never wanted anything to do with Amber. Faye has to decide now whether to tell her daughter the truth as Amber seems to be taking the same path as her mother had when she was younger.

I really warmed to Maggie too. She, at thirty is still haunted by demons from her bullied past. Those demons have now led her into a destructive relationship with Grey who has no respect for her. Maggie has to figure out how to get out of this pattern and become strong again.

The various plotlines in this novel intersect very well together. And something I notice in all of Kelly‘s books where there are a few interlinking stories is that I enjoy them all equally. You know when there are lots of different stories and characters in a novel, you often prefer one to another and you’re skipping over half of the book just to read the story you like best? Well, this does not apply to a Cathy Kelly novel. Kelly knows exactly the pace at which to unravel the secrets, she knows her characters well enough to know what they would and wouldn’t do. This novel flows without any hitches or wtf’s. The language is easy to read, Summer Street is idyllic, maybe not entirely true to Irish weather, but wonderful all the same.

I was emotionally involved in this book and was sorry to see it end. So as you can probably guess ‘Past Secrets’ gets a thumbs up from me. It’s the perfect summer read so buy it here and save it for a hot June day when you can read it in your back yard with a crisp glass of wine.

Rating: 40/50
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