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Pssst: Wanna Know a Secret?

Apparently, secrets make good reading. I’ve been noticing of late the number of books that proclaim secrets (and secret revealing) right from the title. And why not? Scandal, betrayal, mystery: this is the source of great drama in fiction and secrets can provide all of that.

What kinds of secrets are revealed in fiction? Here’s a few…

Family secrets. Every family probably has at least one, but not necessarily as big as the ones that show up in fiction. And that’s probably a good thing–here are a few you can live vicariously through:

A Secret Kept
by Tatiana de Rosnay

Fans of book club favourite Sarah’s Key will be pleased to know about this new novel from the same author. The publisher sets the scene with this description “It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood. Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie’s birthday: a weekend by the sea at Noirmoutier Island, where the pair spent many happy childhood summers playing on the beach. It had been too long, Antoine thought, since they’d returned to the island—over thirty years, since their mother died and the family holidays ceased. But the island’s haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories; it reminds Mélanie of something unexpected and deeply disturbing about their last island summer….”

A Secret in the Family
by Lyn Andrews

For fans of British family sagas (and of authors like Maureen Lee and Josephine Cox), two young women seem to have only good fortune ahead of them when they finish their schooling in late 1950s Liverpool, including falling in love with promising young men. But a secret about one of them soon throws everything into turmoil….

Her Mother’s Daughter
by Lesley Crewe


Fans of this Nova Scotia author know that her page turning family dramas include local flavour, a bit of humour, and a lot of big secrets. This latest —of two Cape Breton sisters, long separated but reunited in the year following their mother’s death—is no exception.

Secrets don’t just have to be about families though, they can be used as a setup for adventurous tales as much as for emotional ones.

The Secret of Excalibur
by Andy McDermott

“A legendary weapon. A ruthless assassin. A perilous hunt. Excalibur … Legend has it that he who carries King Arthur’s mighty sword into battle will be invincible. But for more than a thousand years, the secret to the whereabouts of this powerful weapon has been lost … until now.” (library catalogue description)

And finally, here’s a cool trend I can get behind: the fictional imagining of secret lives of real historical figures. There are a number of these that seem to involve women from history—spicing up their real lives for modern times. They range from the plausible to the purely outlandish, but at either end of the spectrum the offer up some seriously fun and imaginative reading.

Bedlam : the further secret adventures of Charlotte Brontë
by Laura Joh Rowland

A recent addition to a new mystery series that sees the a fiction version of author Charlotte Brontë investigating crimes in 19th Century England.

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson: a novel
by Jerome Charyn

Charyn imagines the inner world of American poet Emily Dickinson: a world in which she isn’t the the proper Victorian lady that history has drawn her as.

The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor: vampire slayer
by Lucy Weston

We’ve talked about mashups on The Reader before—modern versions of classics that employ supernatural themes. The trend is progressing beyond adaptations of novels to re-imagining of biographies: where real life historical figures lives as zombies, vampires, or in this case, vampire hunters.

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