My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you, like me, thought A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald was an unbeatably great book, think again: Natasha Lester has beaten it!
Her Mother’s Secret is a stunning love story set in a time of class snobbery, of outright sexism where single mothers are forced to prostitute themselves for their sinful indiscretions, where men promise to resort to ‘uncivilized warfare to subjugate woman’ for having weakened the moral fibre of men through dancing, wearing lipstick, and exposing their ankles, and God forbid any woman thinks she can invent, manage, or lead.
But for all its appparently outdated notions, Her Mother’s Secret could just as easily have been set today: I imagine some muslim women, transgenders, or any other powerless and misunderstood group can relate to the barriers Leo faced all too easily.
Lester’s writing style is so ‘in the present’ that I believed I was Leo. And incredibly, when switching persepectives, I believed I was Alice, too. Sounds crazy, I know, but it was so real. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more immersed!
I shed my first tears when children, in their sweet ignorance, chanted a typically gruesome skipping-rope song:
I had a little bird
Its name was Enza
I opened the window
It made the grief and horror of one of the deadliest natural disasters in history so poignant and tangible.
I admired Lester’s courage in portraying the heavy and indiscriminate smoking of the time, even though it’s an unpopular pastime now.
I also enjoyed the way some characters did unexplainable things – Joan in particular, without giving anything away – don’t we all have friends like that, who drop in and out of our lives, whose motives are weak?
This is a fabulous read, and one I couldn’t possibly do justice to let alone oversell.
Oh and as for the secret? There were so many secrets I wonder if Everyone’s Secrets would be a more appropriate (though decidedly less catchy) title!
Thanks Natasha, for this utterly beautiful, moving and uplifting tale – you have a fan for life!
** Hachette Australia gave me a copy of this book for free – this is my honest review