Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Book of Secrets - Elizabeth Joy Arnold

The Book of Secrets - Elizabeth Joy Arnold
ISBN - 9780553592535
Publisher - Bantam
Release date - July 2nd 2013
Find - Goodreads/Book Depository/AmazonUK/AmazonUS

'After more than twenty years of marriage, Chloe Sinclair comes home one night to find that her husband, Nate, is gone. All he has left behind is a cryptic note explaining that he's returned to their childhood town, a place Chloe never wants to see again.

While trying to reach Nate, Chloe stumbles upon a notebook tucked inside his antique copy of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Written in code, the pages contain long-buried secrets from their past, and clues to why he went home after all these years. As Chloe struggles to decipher the notebook's hidden messages, she revisits the seminal moments of their youth: the day she met the enigmatic Sinclair children and the increasingly dangerous games they played to escape their troubled childhoods; the first time Nate kissed her, camped out on the beach like Robinson Crusoe; and the elaborate plan she and Nate devised, inspired by "Romeo and Juliet", to break away from his oppressive father. As the reason for Nate's absence comes to light, the truth will forever shatter everything Chloe knows - about her husband, his family, and herself.'
- Goodreads

I'll be honest and say that this isn't my usual sort of read but the synopsis drew me in completely! Mention anything about books in a book and I'll read it, nine times out of ten I'll love it too. This was one of those occasions, I fell completely in love with Arnold's characters and her writing and found the book hard to put down. In fact, the only reason I did put it down was because I had to be up at stupid o' clock to catch a train! Aside from the fact that Book of Secrets is at times heart-breakingly sad, you will want to read this if you're any sort of book lover. From the way that Arnold uses books to bring together Chloe and the Sinclair family to the part names which are either book titles or lines from some of our best loved books. Sweeping from Narnia to the 'belly of the whale' to the star-crossed lovers down the road not taken to the tell-tale heart everything about this book was a pleasure to read, even if at times I was wiping away the odd tear or two.

Chloe meets Nate, Cecelia and Grace Sinclair on the the day of her eighth birthday and from that day on their lives are twined together in ways they couldn't imagine on that first meeting. With a seriously ill mother and a somewhat tyrannical father who does not like Chloe or want her associating with his children none of their upbringings are exactly normal. The story veers between past and present, skillfully done as sometimes books that do this can seem disjointed but the writing here flowed effortlessly between then and now. We learn that Chloe and Nate marry and are running their own bookstore, Grace has become a nun and Cecelia is still in their childhood home looking after their ailing father, recently released from prison for a crime that's not made clear to start with. Chloe comes home to a note from Nate saying he's returned to said home as something bad has happened and that he'll be in touch. Unable to comprehend why he'd want to return somewhere that held so many bad memories Chloe is left floundering until she discovers a series of notes written in code, decipherable by using different books including The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the book that brought them together decades before.

Part love story, part mystery, Book of Secrets will have you hooked from the start. A story of family, love, grief and betrayal by those you thought loved you make this one of the best books I've read this year. Arnold's talent for pulling all these different strings together have you hurtling towards an ending which will leave you completely gobsmacked if you're like me and couldn't guess what the final sting in the tail was going to be. If you love books and good writing make sure to read this - and soon!

My favorite quote - because I love to sniff books too. Surely I'm not alone?

“I ran my fingers over the text then held the book up to my face, closed my eyes and inhaled the sweet-sour scent of old paper and binding glue. Did everyone who loved books do this when they encountered a new one? I loved the physicality of books just as much as the stories inside, the feel of pages between my fingers, the intricacies of classic fonts winding along the neatly lined rows of words.”

 Thanks to Bantam via Netgalley for providing me with a copy of The Book of Secrets.

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