- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Bantam (July 2 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 055359253X
- ISBN-13: 978-0553592535
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.5 x 20.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #955,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Book of Secrets: A Novel Paperback – Jul 2 2013
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“An exquisite novel . . . The Book of Secrets is one of those reasons some of us live to read.”—The Star-Ledger
“Tender and transcendent, The Book of Secrets is about the truths we hide, the consequences we face, and the particular comfort we can only find in a good book. Elizabeth Joy Arnold has written a beautiful and haunting ode to the power of words, and how they shape our lives.”—Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of The Peach Keeper
“The Book of Secrets plunges the reader into the strange and intense world of the Sinclairs, a family bound and pulled apart by the forces of imagination and religious belief. Through the eyes of Chloe Tyler, trapped in this world since childhood, Arnold paints a fascinating picture of obsession and loss. The Book of Secrets offers a complex meditation on the elusive nature of truth and on the power of secrets.”—Henriette Lazaridis Power, author of The Clover House
“This is the beautiful and heart-wrenching story about the secrets that can both hold a marriage together, and drive two people apart. Reading The Book of Secrets is like walking through a dark labyrinth: just when all hope is lost, you step out into sunshine.”—Carla Buckley, author of Invisible
About the Author
Elizabeth Joy Arnold is the author of The Book of Secrets, When We Were Friends, Pieces of My Sister’s Life, and Promise the Moon. She was raised in New York, and has degrees from Vassar College and Princeton University. She lives with her husband and daughter in Pennington, New Jersey, where she is at work on her next novel.See all Product description
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The characters are influenced greatly by the classic stories that Nate's mother read to them and the ones that Chloe later discovers on her own. Most of the main ones would be known by the general public and I enjoyed the literary references very much, but it's not necessary to be familiar with them to enjoy the novel. There were smaller references to books that I'm familiar with, but I'm also sure I missed some - it didn't matter.
Also, when reading this on a Kindle, readers should be warned that the novel ends at the 34% mark - the rest is the complete text of two classic stories that play a part in the novel. I could tell from the story that it was moving to a climax, but couldn't figure out what else the author was going to do to fill up so much space, so this is just a heads up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Chloe is celebrating her 8th birthday, alone and forgotten, when she takes a bike ride and goes further than she's ever gone before. In the midst of basking in the glow of her freedom and almost forgetting her loneliness, she comes across her own personal fairy tale. She finds three children, Nate, Cecelia, and Grace, playing in their yard, wearing beautiful clothes, and looking happier than she's ever been. As they envelop her into their world, they gift her not only with a love of books that she will carry with her through the rest of her life, but with the knowledge that things are never as perfect as they seem.
Fast forward 30 years, and Chloe and Nate are married and running their very own antique bookstore. Like any relationship, theirs has suffered its share of hardships; the primary being the loss of their 2 year old son, Gabriel, more than 20 years ago. Having never discussed or moved past the loss, Chloe and Nate live around each other, rather than with each other. Their contented, if not a bit lonely, existence is shattered when Chloe comes home to a note from Nate, stating he has returned to their childhood home, a place both of them vowed never to revisit.
In trying to solve the mystery of Nate's disappearance, Chloe finds a journal, written in code by Nate, revealing secrets he kept from her not only throughout their marriage, but dating all the way back to their childhood.
When I read the publisher's summary of The Book of Secrets, I was actually expecting to read a book about infidelity. I don't know how or why I got that impression, but what I found between these (albeit electronic) pages was so much more profound. This book is a great puzzle/mystery with a very important and hard-hitting message at its core. It really hit all the boxes for me. There were so many things I loved about this book, I honestly don't know where to start. So, forgive me if I ramble.
I guess I should start with the writing style. I've come across a number of novels recently that jump between time periods, but I think this one does the best job out of all of them. The novel starts in the present and flashes back 30 years to the beginning of the relationship between Chloe and Nate. It's done so well that it's easy to get completely wrapped up in both time periods. As the book progresses, the flashbacks get closer and closer to present time, which I loved. Ms. Arnold does a fabulous job at covering a large expanse of time without the reader feeling like they're missing key points or events. The reader really gets to feel like they are a part of Chloe and Nate's childhood in a way that makes it easy to see the motivations behind their present-day behavior.
Another thing I really loved about this novel was Chloe's love affair with literature. It was wonderfully unique to get to see it from its inception; when she first met Nate and his sisters, who were digging a hole to London to ask C.S. Lewis about Narnia. As Chloe grows, so does her love of books and she relates to them in much the same way I do. She (as the narrator) puts into words what I've never been able to in regards to the worlds and lives she witnesses through reading:
"I was amazed their lives didn't continue around me. A whole world somehow tucked back into the book, waiting for me to set it free."
I remember feeling this exact same way growing up, and often still do if I find a book I can really throw myself into.
Ok, here's where it gets really personal for me. Rather than being a novel about infidelity, like I expected, The Book of Secrets is really, at its core, about what happens when couples don't communicate, especially in the fallout resulting from tragedy. Like Chloe and Nate, my husband and I suffered a loss a couple of years ago that will always be a part of our lives. Because of that, I was really struck by how Nate and Chloe reacted to and around each other after their loss; neither wanting to show their pain, and each trying to protect the other. I think Chloe phrased what I was feeling in that time perfectly when reflecting upon her own feelings:
"When you're hurting, the "strength" of the people who try and comfort you just feels like a wall, your pain bouncing off against them. What I'd needed was to see my pain reflected in someone else's face; it would've felt so much less alone."
This is one of those books, that, regardless of your life circumstances, is destined to make you look at things differently. Whether it's in how you communicate, how you handle hardship, or simply how you look at literature, there is a lesson to be learned for every single reader and I will carry with me the lessons I've learned here for a very long time.
One note - this kindle download also included Romeo and Juliet as well as Robinson Crusoe. That was a surprise!