Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Secrets We Left Behind – Susan Elliot Wright

Contemporary Fiction 4*'s
Contemporary Fiction

How does a woman learn to live with a secret that has been buried for more than thirty years? Not just any old secret, one that makes her heart pound with fear whenever she considers the truth coming out!  The prologue starts in Sheffield in 2010 with a woman skulking in the bushes trying to catch a glimpse of a loved one.

In 2009 where we meet our protagonist, a woman who has everything she could have wished for: a loving husband, a daughter she is proud of, a beautiful house and job where she helps others less fortunate than herself, but when she believes she may have seen someone from long ago, she is scared, and then the telephone starts ringing….

The secret she is desperate to keep has its roots in the sweltering hot summer of 1976 when following the death of her mother the teenager leaves Newquay in Cornwall for the bright lights of London.  Bewildered and out of her depth in the city she meets a motherly woman just a couple of years older than herself who offers her a room in the squat she inhabits with her partner in Hastings.

Susan Elliot Wright weaves a tale that will make you question, every step of the way, what would I do? The author spun a story that I invested in, all the while rooting for the motherless teenager while knowing that in the future the consequences of the hot summer would be bought to bear on a life that had been fought for.

Although I was quite young during 1976 there were enough authentic details included in this book that took me back to the summer that seemed to last forever from the ingenious ways the squatters found to water their plants while they were re-enacting ‘The Good Life’ with their home-grown vegetables, natural medicines and an art and craft stall selling jewellery made out of the shells they found on the beach. I could taste the melting ice-creams as our protagonist grows up alongside her new found friends.  I could  picture her in her room furnished with a rocking chair bought for 50p and the red lava lamp in the corner for 20p a time and place bought to life with a lightness of touch by the author.

I raced through this book, eager to know what had happened this is a book where the tension slowly mounts as the past is uncovered and the pace was perfect for the richness of the writing.  This would make the perfect beach read.

I did guess the secret but that didn’t take away the enjoyment I found reading this tale, a story of love and loss, growing up and taking responsibility as well as relationships in all their guises. Susan Elliot Wright shies away from depicting her characters as good or bad, each one we meet in this book is a ‘real’ person a mixture of strengths and weaknesses that I missed when I closed the last page.

I was delighted to be given the opportunity to read and write an honest review of this book by the publishers, Simon & Schuster, ahead of the publication date of tomorrow, 8 May 2014, because I had enjoyed Susan Elliot Wright’s debut novel The Things We Never Said which is also set in Hastings.


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

14 thoughts on “The Secrets We Left Behind – Susan Elliot Wright

  1. Another excellent review, Cleo. This blog post confirms that it is good to have ‘The Secrets We Left Behind’ on my TBR list. 🙂


    1. You should, both books are good but this one really painted a picture of the long hot summer of 1976. Susan Elliot Wright has a knack of creating interesting characters who interact realistically.


  2. Great review. You definitely make me want to read this…huh, another book about a secret for me (I’m reading The Husband’s Secret)…thanks for stopping by my blog.


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