Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Secret Lives

Author: Diane Chamberlain
Type: Kindle e-book
Source: Own
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
First Published: 1991
First Line: "Eden Swift Riley was good at pretending."

Book DescriptionActress Eden Riley's decision to make a film about the mother she barely knew plunges her into a shattering confrontation with her own past. Through her mother's journal, Eden discovers a life of hardship, madness and secrets. Shifting gracefully between Eden's world and that of her mother, Secret Lives seduces with the power of its images and the lyricism of its prose.

My ThoughtsThis is not my first book by Ms Chamberlain.  Last year I read and reviewed another of Chamberlain's books (The Good Father -- see my review HERE) and enjoyed it.   She has a knack of writing interesting storylines with just the right amount of twists to keep the reader interested. "Secret Lives" is an easy and engaging read told via multiple storylines about familial secrets and people running from their pasts.

While this is an easy read it does deal with a few very serious topics.  There's mystery, dark family secrets, child abuse and forbidden love.  This book deals with these, sensitive issues believably and I didn't feel salaciously.  That said, some of these topics may shock more sensitive readers.  I will admit that a few scenes made me inwardly cringe based on the subject matter.  Let's just say that I'm not sure that I would have read the book if I had known that it dealt with these very sensitive topics.  There are just some issues that I don't want to read about.

So what did I think of the characters?  They were hit and miss with me.  On the one had I adored Katherine.  She is a unique and very misunderstood young woman.  What helped me really get to know her were the additions of excerpts from the journals she kept as a teen and young woman.  You get a very personal and in-depth feel for her character as well as her inner struggles with her debilitating anxiety disorder that has plagued her entire life.  Chamberlain's descriptions of Katherine's anxiety were vivid and sensitively written making them almost painful to read.   My heart broke for this poor misunderstood woman who tried so hard to overcome her disorder.

In stark contrast, I really didn't love Eden and didn't have sympathy for her plight. At times, she felt overly na├»ve for a woman of her age, occupation and status.  This seemed very disjointed with who she was (a famous actress - a la Julia Roberts, I'm assuming) and it frustrated me. I didn't feel that she realistically portrayed a successful and famous actress.  Also, her sudden romance with a new man in her life felt rushed, a little desperate and unbelievable that this woman would throw everything away for a guy she just met.  Gratuitous sex scenes were added to spice things up but didn't add to the storyline for me.

Ben was a decent leading man; a handsome man with a dark past. Personally, I'm not sure that I could have looked past his issues but I did appreciate the tension that that author created as she slowly let the reader in on Ben's secret.  Chamberlain is quite good at adding the tension and mystery to her storylines without losing the interest of her readers.  That said, I wasn't too shocked when I finally found out about his big secret but it didn't really stop me from enjoying the ride. 

The only major beef that I had with this book is the conclusion to Ben's issues.  These issues plagued the man throughout the book.  They destroyed his life and yet were resolved very quickly and wrapped up much too easily at the very end of the book.  When I read a book, I love for the momentum to continue right up to the end and sadly this book didn't.  It skidded to a stop and ended with everyone being all happy.  Nice but not very realistic.

Diane Chamberlain has a knack for writing books that keep the reader interested.  While she did throw in several big reveals into the storylines, overall I felt like the book was fairly predictable and towards the end I knew how it was going to end. 

This is not a literary work of art but it is a nice, enjoyable afternoon read.  It wasn't jaw dropping in its reveals and its main character left a lot to be desired but the honest portrayal of Katherine's character truly made this book for me.  While this isn't my favourite book from Diane Chamberlain, I do plan to read many more of her books.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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