Title: The House of Secrets
Author: Sarra Manning
Published: January 10th 2017
Publisher: Hachette Australia for Little Brown Group
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
Every home has a story to tell . . . An ordinary house on an ordinary street, built in 1936 and never lived in. Its rooms might be empty, but this house is full of secrets.
When Zoe and Win, raw and reeling from a recent tragedy, move into their new home it’s meant to be a fresh start and a way to mend the holes in their relationship.
But pushed to the back of a cupboard is a suitcase that’s been gathering dust for eighty years. Inside is a wedding dress, letters and a diary all belonging to a woman called Libby. And there’s something else in the suitcase, something that echoes Zoe’s own pain.
Zoe follows Libby’s trail from Paris to Spain on the brink of Civil War to secret trysts in London, and as Libby finds the courage to live and love again, Zoe begins to let go of her own grief.
But when Libby’s story takes a darker turn, Zoe becomes increasingly obsessed with discovering what really happened all those years ago. Because if Libby managed to get her happy ever after then maybe Zoe and Win can too . . .
Sarra Manning made quite the impression on me when I read her previous novel, After the Last Dance. She returns with a new release and another unforgettable historical romance, again featuring a double time period narrative. This time around, Manning’s novel is set around a house harbouring secrets of the past. An abandoned suitcase found in this house holds the key to the fascinating life of a woman living in the year 1936.
Libby and Zoe are the protagonists that drive Manning’s latest publication, The House of Secrets. These two women are separated by time but are eternally linked together by a house. In the present, Zoe and her husband Win have recently purchased a house built in the 1930’s that needs a complete renovation. While restoring the property, Zoe stumbles across an old suitcase which is filled with intriguing items. These include a letters, a diary and baby clothes. Zoe is baffled as to who left these items behind and why they were left for so long. She is determined to get to the source of the suitcase and hopefully return the items to their rightful owner. Zoe investigations from clues left in the diary and letters lead her to Libby, a woman who once lived in the same house in the 1930’s. Little by little it is revealed Libby’s life was a tragic one, marred by miscarriage and wrong choices in love. As the two women’s stories converge, Zoe’s journey into Libby’s past gives her a new lease on life.
I was excited to read The House of Secrets and I really enjoyed reading After the Last Dance by Manning last year. As soon as this novel was released, I was quick off the mark to purchase it and settle in to read it.
Manning is adept in producing engrossing stories that combine two very different time periods, as well as key characters. The House of Secrets again shows us how Manning is able to successfully intertwine life in the 1930’s, to life in the present day. In fact, it does not take long for the reader to feel completely invested in both Zoe and Libby’s lives. The transition from one time period and story to another is handled with ease by Manning.
Manning’s characterisation is solid. This also extends to her peripheral characters. Leads Libby and Zoe are cast against a wall of likeable male protagonists. Some of their choices are questionable but this adds to the readability of the novel.
I love the idea of hidden suitcases, letters, diaries and other personal effects. Manning uses these props to her full advantage in The House of Secrets. I enjoyed how these items acted as a catalyst in revealing Libby’s hidden story. More importantly, I liked the part they played in healing Zoe’s relationship with Win and how they helped Zoe overcome the loss of her unborn child. When I reached the end of the story, I reflected heavily on Zoe’s journey. I came to the conclusion that as much as this is Libby’s story, The House of Secrets is essentially about Zoe’s personal growth through a difficult life event. I came away filled with sense of promise for Zoe, which was a warm feeling.
The House of Secrets is a wonderful dual time period novel that offered me a pleasurable reading experience. I liked this novel a lot but not quite as much as its predecessor, After the Last Dance, which I thought handled the historical time period side of the novel a tad better. I would recommend this novel to those who appreciate a good multi time period novel and historical sagas/romances.
The House of Secrets by Sarra Manning was published in January 2017 by Hachette Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.