Book Review: Secrets My Father Kept by Rachel Givney

About the Book:

Secrets My Father Kept is a captivating novel about love, sacrifice, secrets and resilience, as the clock inexorably ticks down to a devastating world war.

It’s February 1939. As the Führer edges towards an invasion of Poland, total war looms in Europe.

However, in Krakow, seventeen-year-old Marie Karska’s primary concern is the unexplained disappearance of her mother fifteen years ago, and her father Dominik’s unbreakable silence on the matter. Even his wife’s name is a secret he guards closely.

Dominik, a well-respected and innovative doctor at the local hospital, has devoted his life to caring for his only daughter. Yet a black fear haunts him – over the questionable act he committed to keep Marie safe. And with German troops now marching to the border, he needs to find her a husband. One who will protect her when he no longer can…

But Marie has already met the man she wants to marry: her childhood friend Ben. She’s determined that his Jewish faith won’t stand in the way of their future together. And nor will her father’s refusal to explain the past stop her from unpicking his darkest secret.

Released 1st June 2021
Published by Penguin Random House Australia – Michael Joseph
Thanks is extended to the publisher for the review copy.

My Thoughts:

After having enjoyed Rachel Givney’s debut novel, Jane in Love, I was keen to read her most recent release, particularly as it sounded so very different to her previous work of fiction. I find it so refreshing when authors don’t pigeon-hole themselves into a samey writing existence. Secrets My Father Kept was certainly different to Jane in Love, but it was equally as captivating and memorable.

Atmospheric, written with literary style and apparent wit, Secrets My Father Kept has an astonishing twist towards the end that I didn’t see coming until it was actually happening. The way in which this novel depicts the treatment of, and lack of care and respect for, along with the objectification of women, was at times shocking, distressing, but above all, wholly accurate for the era.

Secrets My Father Kept is an excellent novel. Set in Krakow in 1939, with the shadow of Nazi invasion looming, there is an urgency to the narrative that complimented the themes and plot. This a novel that will stay with me, one I will be pressing into the hands of other readers and recommending to book clubs.

Quotable Quotes:

‘The city in which she lived still scared her. The kings of Europe had all taken their turn with Krakow, moved in, built castles and houses, then departed, leaving the people nothing but ruins, spoiled waterways and a decrepit castle. Dragon gargoyles from five different empires hung from every disintegrating turret and snarled as you passed underneath in the languages of their masters: German, Swedish, Russian. Now the soot from a thousand coal fireplaces stained the buildings black, forming ghouls that danced across them. The smell from the hot sewers wafted up, blowing one’s hair back with its stench. Fog lingered, always. As though aware of the evil lurking, there was a church on every corner.’


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