It’s a real pleasure to be part of Bookouture‘s Books-on-tour again today, this time sharing my review of My Mother’s Secret by Julia Roberts: published on 27th January, it’s now available via Amazon for kindle and in paperback, and also via Apple, for Kobo and through Google. My thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to join the tour and for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley), and to Sarah Hardy for her ongoing support.
I’ve read Julia’s excellent writing before, but it was quite a while ago – I never did manage to fit in the Liberty Sands trilogy, but I really loved two of her shorter reads, Time for a Short Story (review here) and Christmas at Carol’s (you’ll find that review here). When Alice in Theatreland was published in 2017, Julia joined me with a lovely guest post – and I went on to read and thoroughly enjoy it, and you’ll find my review here. She then moved over to the darker side for a while with the three book Detective Rachel Hart series, published under the name of JG Roberts – not the very dark side, and there have been some excellent reviews, but just not quite my kind of reading. So I was delighted to hear about this latest book from Julia, perhaps with more in common with her earlier books – I really enjoy her writing, and couldn’t wait…
‘They told me he died, but I never believed them. I’d have known,’ she says, her voice little more than a whisper and her eyes searching mine. ‘A mother would know if her child died, wouldn’t she?’
The phone call comes in the middle of the night, rousing Danni from her safe, warm bed. The police have found her mother Diana wandering miles from her house, confused and lost. Danni races to her mother’s side – and as usual, Diana doesn’t seem to want her there. But when Danni finds out that her mother is seriously ill, she decides to put the past behind her, and care for her mother in the time they have left.
But as some of Diana’s memories are slipping away, others are forcing their way to the surface. One night she breaks down and reveals that before Danni was born, she had another baby who never got to see the world. Faced with her mother’s heartbreak, Danni vows to do everything she can to bring Diana some peace, hoping that it will mend their fractured relationship too.
Yet as Danni investigates the past, tracking down the aunt she’s never met and searching for her lost brother’s resting place, her good intentions have unexpected consequences as more truths emerge. And there’s one shocking revelation which could change Danni’s life forever. Are some secrets best left buried?
A completely heartbreaking and compelling story of families, secrets, and the fierce love between mothers and children. Fans of Amanda Prowse, Ali Mercer and Jodi Picoult will smile through their tears.
In recent times, I’ve been much more inclined to pick up a romantic comedy than a book with an emotional punch as strong as this one. When I read about mother Diana’s “memories… slipping away”, I knew it was going to be rather closer to the knuckle than I might find comfortable, but knowing the author’s rather special touch I really did want to give it a try. I sat down after lunch one day, was drawn into the book from the very beginning, and didn’t move again (my tissues were within easy reach…) until I’d read the very last page. The reading was such an emotional experience – and I do think that this book’s themes will particularly resonate with the more mature reader, as Danni finds herself in that familiar “sandwich” between an elderly and ailing parent and her own family – but I have to say that I thought this book was quite wonderful.
I remember visiting my own mother in her care home and witnessing a resident viciously attacking her daughter – comforting her with the usual “it’s just the dementia”, she surprised me when she said her mother had never liked her, she’d always been nasty, it was just that the dementia meant that she just didn’t have to hide it any more. Danni and Diana’s relationship has always been a difficult and dysfunctional one – her brother was always the favourite, and the book largely explores the reasons why. I have to say that the way Diana’s increasing dementia is depicted has exceptional authenticity – particularly the small things like the forgotten flashes of anger, the moments of complete emptiness, the fear behind the eyes. But it was the love that got me through all that – it’s a love Danni’s never experienced from her mother, but it doesn’t stop her stepping in as unwelcome carer when Diana’s mental state and her health begin to decline.
One reason I loved this book was because the characters and the situations they found themselves in just felt so entirely real – the relationships are so well drawn, the emotional content so raw it hurts, the dialogue with the quality of conversations overheard when you shouldn’t really be listening. But as well as that, there’s a fascinating, well-told and thoroughly gripping story – Diana’s big secret, initially indistinguishable between fantasy and reality, but then driving the narrative as Danni strives to uncover the truth and to bring her mother some peace. The focus on families and the mother-daughter relationship is unflinching and superbly handled – but there’s also a very strong supporting cast that only enhances the story further.
There’s enough, I think, in the book’s description to let you know what to expect – telling you any more would only spoil it, and that would be unforgivable. It is quite a page-turner, with moments of almost unbearable poignancy – but it’s not without its lighter moments, and the balance between the day-to-day ordinariness of life and the digging into the emotional depths is perfectly balanced. Its conclusion made me cry and smile – in fact, I was a bit of a soggy mess a few times as I was reading – but there’s absolutely no manipulation, it’s just a heartbreaking story quite beautifully told. Such a special book, and highly recommended – I really loved it.
About the author
Julia was born in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, and began her career as a professional singer/dancer. This enabled her to travel the world in her late teens storing up experiences she has since included in her writing.
Following roles as a hostess on The Price is Right and a member of the Beadle’s About ‘hit squad’ in the 1980s, she became a TV Presenter and filmed features for Sky Sports before launching the QVC shopping channel in 1993 where she still presents today. Having always wanted to write, she penned her first book, a memoir sold on QVC, in 2013 and has since written seven full length novels, two novellas and several short stories.