I absolutely love it when a secret weaves itself all the way through a book. I love it even more when we don’t see this secret revealed until the very last chapter of said book. This is precisely what happened in Kate Morton‘s The Shifting Fog. One thing I don’t like however, is when you figure the secret half way through – thankfully this didn’t happen. I was caught hook, line and sinker right to the end of this book, nothing is better than a little bit of intrigue to get you right the way through a novel.
This book is mostly set in 1920’s England, with occasional flash forwards to the present day. We are seeing the past through the eyes and experiences of Grace, a 98 year old living in a retirement home. In her youth, she was a maid in the home of one of the most affluent families in England at that time – the Hartfords’. But when she leaves the service of this family in the late 20’s, she takes with her a dark secret that she then carries and keeps to herself for the next 70 years. But after being contacted by a woman who is making a film about the mystery surrounding the Hartford family, Grace feels that it is time to share her secret and lift the shadow that has followed her for the majority of her life.
This is another one of those books that has been on my “want to read but not right now” list for a long time. I don’t know many people who have read it, but I have seen some great reviews. I’m pleased that I finally got around to picking it up as it was very enjoyable to read. The previously mentioned secret throughout the book assisted in making it such a good read, along with the completely believable characters, the little surprises that popped up (even in the final chapters) and the beautifully descriptive writing. I feel that Morton has perfectly captured the spirit of early 1900’s England. From the glamourous lifestyles of the rich, to the devotedness of the servants to their masters and the ruined spirits of those that came back from the World Wars. While today we would look at this servant/master relationship and frown upon it, in those days it was an honour to work for a well-to-do family and live in their home. At no point did I feel like the story was dragging on, everything that was written was relevant to the story as a whole. Probably the only times I found myself getting a little bit impatient, was when we were with Grace in the present, but this was only because I was so eager to get back to the past.
All in all, a beautifully written book that is true to it’s time and perfectly encapsulates the ups and downs which we now associate with this period of time. This book is just like the mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, that Grace was so fixated upon, both in her youth and old age.
RATING – 8 out of 10. An intriguing mystery set in one of the most interesting periods of history.
WHO SHOULD READ IT – Lovers of history and lovers of mystery. Probably a little more suited to females, but that’s no to say that a few men wouldn’t enjoy it also.
WHO YOU’LL LOVE – While Grace was admirable in her loyalty, for me the most interesting character was Hannah Hartford. An incredibly strong minded young woman, who most certainly could have been anything she desired, had she been born in a later era.