Source: Review copy
Publication: 23 June 2022 from Penguin
My thanks to Penguin Viking for an advance copy for review
Two women are staying in Willowmead House.
One of them is running.
One of them is hiding.
Both of them are lying.
Emily made one bad decision, and now her career could be over. Her family home on the Cornish coast is the only place where she feels safe. But when she arrives, there’s a stranger living with her father. Emily doesn’t trust the beautiful young woman, convinced that she’s telling one lie after another. Soon, Emily becomes obsessed with finding out the truth…
But should some secrets stay buried forever?
Do you tell everything to the ones you love? Should you? These are just two of the questions that Jane Corry wrestles with in her family drama where no-one is a reliable narrator and everyone has at least one secret they want to keep close.
On the beautiful Cornish coast, Harold Gentle has found a live in carer and companion, Francoise Alarie. He could not be happier and this arrangement is working out well for him. His daughter Emily works as a midwife in London and though she phones regularly, her visits are few and far between and the pair no longer communicate as well as once they did.
Emily is in trouble. A problematic delivery has led to her professionalism being questioned and now her career is in jeopardy. It’s at times like this when a girl needs her dad, or at the very least, just the ability to head for home and lick her wounds in the familiar surroundings of a loving home.
What she doesn’t expect is to find that dad laughing and enjoying life with a beautiful French woman at least half his age who seems to know him very well indeed.
We All Have Our Secrets is told from three perspectives: Harold’s Second World War diaries, and perspectives from both Emily and Francoise. Of course the two women dislike each other on sight and each does her best to hide her secrets from the other while vying for Harold’s attention.
Harold has secrets too and these play out between the contemporary drama that is the present day. Jane Corry does a splendid job of building up Emily’s case against Francoise, only to have Francoise knock it down again in her perspective while showing us that the caring daughter persona that Emily presents is a selfish, self-centred daughter who only comes home when she needs something.
Harold is a hard man to like. He has always liked everything ‘just so’ and he can be cutting when things are not done to his liking. A retired solicitor, his mind is not quite what it used to be and he can be obstreperous and even cruel.
His wartime diaries are quite different though and offer a glimpse of Harold as a young man; showing us the terrible things he lived through and what has contributed to making him the way he is today.
Jane Corry’s dramatic family drama is a good read with interesting characters and a tense atmosphere between the characters which plays out in unexpected ways. Less a thriller and more a tension filled drama between two rivals for one man’s affection, it shows us how secrets and lies can bring devastation on the heads of those who have done nothing to deserve it.
I enjoyed the extracts from Harold’s diaries which offered texture and context to a psychological drama in which no-one is who they claim to be.
Verdict: Jane Corry’s We All Have Our Secrets is a character driven book that hooks you in. In the beginning it offers the reader a partial picture, slowly uncovering the whole and leading the reader to constantly change their mind about where the truth lies and what is at the heart of all this deception. Secrets, lies, and whether honesty is all it’s cracked up to be are all part of the twisty equation in this thoroughly good read.
Jane Corry is a Sunday Times best-selling author; a Washington Post best-seller; she has sold over a million copies world-wide in over 20 countries including the States; is a features writer for numerous magazines including Woman and Woman’s Own; regular contributor to The Daily Telegraph; short story writer; columnist for My Weekly magazine; former creative writing tutor at Oxford University; former writer-in-residence at high security male prison; former Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Exeter University, past winner of the Elizabeth Goudge trophy for short stories and the Vera Brittain cup for short stories.