Secret Lives – Diane Chamberlain – 2010 – Contemporary fiction

Secret Lives: Amazon.co.uk: Chamberlain, Diane: 8601200583113: Books

Goodreads Summary:

From the author of Lovers and Strangers, a powerful, compelling Southern novel about family secrets. An Oscar-winning actress returns to her native Virginia to script the story of the famous mother she barely knew, but she gets more than she bargained for when her uncle presents her with her mother’s private journals.

My Thoughts:

The novel mainly follows Eden’s storyline although we also get her mother’s story through the diary entries in the journal Eden’s uncle gives her.

Eden’s mother, Kate, was my favourite character in the novel. My favourite parts in Diane Chamberlain’s books are (almost) always those taking place in earlier time periods and I loved reading Kate’s journal. I didn’t want to leave Kate behind when I finished the story which is something I don’t personally often feel in books.

I loved reading about Kate and Kyle’s relationship in Kate’s diary. Although I could tell quite early where it would end up (I think because I know Chamberlain’s style so well!) I loved reading about the bittersweet journey they went on together, trying to become more independent yet also being totally dependent on each other for their emotional survival.

On the other hand, I found Eden quite a passive character. Although Kate suffers from agoraphobia she tries to take control when she can, whereas I felt like Eden just let things happen to her. Aside from finding out things from her mother’s past, I don’t think Eden really has much development between the first chapter and the last.

I really enjoyed reading Ben’s storyline – as we meet him he is being ostracised by friends after being in prison, and we learn about the crime he supposedly committed – I do think it was quite a heavy subject to have as a sideline story, so I wish there’d been a bit more time spent on it (or even a separate book!)

The time period of this book is quite interesting – although the majority portion takes place in the 90s, Kate’s journal begins in the 40s and that’s a vital part of why the story works because of her mental health struggles and the relationships she has around her. Had Kate’s story taken place in modern times, I don’t think her life would have gone the direction it does.


I gave this book 4/5 stars. I’m a big fan of Diane Chamberlain’s so I loved this book but it’s one of her earlier stories and you can tell her writing hadn’t reached its full potential here so I’d recommend her newer books if you’re not familiar with her.

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