About Books #71: The Forgotten Secret

The number one sign of a good story: when you finish it, you get mad at the book because it dared to end. And, well… Let me put it this way. This book forcefully hit the sofa after I read the final words of The Forgotten Secret.

I was offered an ARC by Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are strictly my own.

The story

A country at war

It’s the summer of 1919 and Ellen O’Brien has her whole life ahead of her. Young, in love and leaving home for her first job, the future seems full of shining possibility. But war is brewing and before long, Ellen and everyone around her are swept up by it. As Ireland is torn apart by the turmoil, Ellen finds herself facing the ultimate test of love and loyalty.

A long-buried secret

A hundred years later and Clare Farrell has inherited a dilapidated old farmhouse in County Meath. Seizing the chance to escape her unhappy marriage she strikes out on her own for the first time, hoping the old building might also provide clues to her family’s shadowy history. As she sets out to put the place – and herself – back to rights, she stumbles across a long-forgotten hiding place, with a clue to a secret that has lain buried for decades.

The opinion

Here’s something I’ve recently discovered: I really love books where there’s two parallel stories taking place at different points in history. As it turns out, Kathleen McGurl does that beautifully in The Forgotten Secret. Mix in the fact that this book talks about a part of European history that I don’t know enough about but would love to learn more of? This book got me good.

There’s a distinct difference in tone between Ellen’s story and Clare’s story. First of all: Ellen’s story is told from a third person perspective, Clare’s from a first person perspective. However, that’s just on the surface level. McGurl manages to set the characters so drastically apart, not only in their narrative, but in the very word choice.

While both leads have an evolution towards independence, Ellen’s story definitely hit me more. Maybe it’s just that she’s closer to my age, maybe it’s that her story shows so much history. Either way, while I appreciated Clare’s story – and all the fun details on up-doing old furniture! That bit was fascinating, more so than I had expected, actually. Ellen’s story, though? That one really hit me. That’s the type of story I’m going to be thinking about for a good while.

The rating: 4/5

One of the biggest compliments I can give a book is that it made me want to read more like it. That was absolutely the case for this book. It managed to get the balance between history and story, between sentiment and senses so right… I finished this book in two sittings, and – as I already said – I felt disappointed after it was done… Just because I wanted there to be more. I wanted more story to enjoy, and more than just the glimpses we got into Ellen’s life after the treaty… Honestly, this type of story has to be told just right, and McGurl definitely managed to do that. (Goodreads)