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Author Topic: "Every Secret Thing" by Laura Lippman  (Read 19835 times)
Mark
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« on: March 25, 2007 »

Laura Lippman had already received enormous acclaim - and just about every award going - for her series featuring Tess Monaghan, when she pretty much knocked everyone on their arses with her first standalone novel. EVERY SECRET THING was published in 2003. The book won the Anthony and Barry awards for best novel as well as being nominated for the Hammett Award that year. It was a book that created a real buzz among the crime fiction community...

I can't believe that it's four years since I read this book. So many scenes have stayed with me. I'll save my input until a few of you have had a chance to post.

I'm really looking forward to hearing what you made of it, and I know that Laura is too. She'll be along over the next couple of days to respond to your comments...

Have fun.

Mark
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LauraL
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« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2007 »

Hi, Lippman here, just noting that I'm registered and ready to contribute to the discussion this week.

Of course I'm pleased that Mark chose one of my books, especially "Every Secret Thing," a book that was written during a year of enormous/good personal and professional changes.

Two caveats about this week -- it's a busy one, the third week in my tour for my latest book here in the U.S. and I have a dreadful cold that's left me a little slower than usual.
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Sarah H
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« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2007 »

Quote
and I have a dreadful cold that's left me a little slower than usual.

You'll be closer to our level then?! Smiley

It's nice to meet you Laura. I'm afraid I won't be taking part in the discussion this time as I haven't read the book yet, but I will do before Harrogate; Kevin Wignall recommended 'Every Secret Thing' to me last year.

Sarah
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Jayne
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« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2007 »

Many thanks for taking the time out to join us, Laura - it's lovely to have you on board. Smiley
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Kevin Wignall
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2007 »

Kevin Wignall here. I'm not very good at forums, even though I'm aware that this is one of the few places where people talk up my books (thanks, Betty, Michelle, Sarah!).

However, when Mark told me "Every Secret Thing" was the book of the month I had to register.  Laura is without doubt one of the finest writers out there and this book provides such a fabulous exploration of suburban America that I think everyone should read it.  It's easily on a par with The Virgin Suicides in terms of getting beneath the surface of American life. Like Mark, I find many things about this book stick in the mind, and not just the more gripping plot details. Telling glimpses of life, like the observation that air-conditioning has sucked away the aural landscape of neighbourhoods, fall off every page.

Two other points because I am inclined to ramble. Firstly, the "crime" element of the story is as gripping as you could want.  Secondly, the book is told from the POVs of around five characters, all of whom happen to be female, and all of whom are drawn beautifully.  Laura never puts a foot wrong in this finely wrought book and I recommend it to everyone.
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chelbel
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2007 »

Hey Laura, nice to have you with us
I'm on page 179...
When Kevin says it's on par with the Virgin Suicides, he is so right.
I'm surprised at how easily readible this book is, even though so many peoples stories are being told.  Normally, it would be a case of having to re-read and flick back to figure out who's who.  Not at all in this case. 
And even though i still do not know what happened to the baby, i'm quiet contented to read this book at my own pace. Each chapter is a pleasure to read, each character is so well drawn up that i picture them in my minds eye.
As i'm not yet finished (hopefully tomorrow, work permitting) i won't say too much.
For me, the bit about the Barbie doll at the Birthday party was brilliant.  Here i am at 27 years of age, engrossed in a dilemma over a Barbie doll.  I felt it brought me back to my childhood when such things were so important.

Ps, Kevin, your very welcome Smiley
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LauraL
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2007 »

Hmmm, Mark probably didn't know what a forum slut I was when he asked me to participate. I probably should hold back, let the discussion build on its own, but it's lunchtime in Baltimore and I am procrastinating wildly. (Not avoiding lunch, mind you, but the work I have to do after lunch.)

I'm glad that "Chelbel" -- is that proper forum etiquette, using user names? -- referenced the Barbie doll. This weekend, I was at a book festival where Lee Child talked about the origins of his character, Jack Reacher. Lee said, more or less in these words, that by the time you can see a bandwagon, it's too late to get on it, so Reacher was conceived in opposition to what was popular in the mid-90s.

When I wrote this book, it was my observation that the writers I admired most were writing books that were uniquely theirs. George Pelecanos, for example. No one can write a better Pelecanos book than Pelecanos. This might sound obvious, but there are some names in crime fiction that wouldn't pass the same test. (I won't name them and I hope this forum won't be diverted into nominating writers for that dishonor. I have no heart for such criticism. In America, such things are taken very personally.)

At any rate, reading Pelecanos and others persuaded me that I had to find a fictional world that belonged to me. And I realized that it was the world of girls. Adolescents in general, girls in particular. Almost every book I've written in the past five years has centered on girls. The one exception, By a Spider's Thread, has a 10-year-old boy as a major character. For better or worse, I remember every childhood slight, every yearning, every grudge.

Okay, I will (grudgingly) go read my student papers now.
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chelbel
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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2007 »

I'm so pleased Laura, that the Barbies stood to mean something, because for me it did make a point.  I like that you found your place and stuck with it, it makes for good reading.  Especially since i'm a girl too Wink Grin
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Rock chick
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2007 »

Hi Laura,

This is the first of your books I have read *hangs head in shame* but definitely not the last.

I actually couldn't fault this book. It's beautifully written, and the minutiae of the life and times of the girls brings it completely alive.

The plot was unusual and highly original - I'm not even sure it would meet my definition of a crime novel, but I thoroughly enjoyed every page. The story unfolds gently but unstoppably in a way that it is truly gripping...but you almost dread turning the next page as it move inexorably towards a climax that you are not sure you want to see! The literary equivalent of watching tv through your fingers!

The characterisation is excellent - there wasn't anyone in this book I didn't care about, and the echoes of true crimes committed by children make it a poignant read. Like all of us, it's impossible for me to reconcile what some children do with the fact they they are just...well, children.

This is a memorable book in every good way and I'm really looking forward to reading more of Laura's work. Excellent choice, Mark!
« Last Edit: March 26, 2007 by Rock chick » Logged

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Sonia J
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« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2007 »

Hi and thank you so much Laura for joining in. I don't think I can really add to the high praise already given so instead I have a question if that's ok.Obviously Cynthia felt huge guilt over what happened to her child but was part of her guilt because she felt she hadn't cared enough,possibly because Rosalind was such a pretty baby and in hindsight Cynthia felt Olivia wasn't?
I have probably got it completely wrong but to each character their looks played a large role in their lives and it is said we live on through our children.
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Roger
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« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2007 »

Hi Laura,
I must admit to never having heard of you or read any thing by you before, sorry about that.
I must also admit also that I don't read a lot of female authors either, shameful !!!. Having said all that I shall not forget you now.
I thoroughly enjoyed "Every secret thing" and I look forward to reading more from you and the Tess Monagham books.
The first thing I noticed with your book was the amount of women in it, loads of them .
I like the way of the slow pace and build and I wanted it so not to have anything to with Alice,although i knew it had something to do with Alice by her very long walks at all hours.
Children disappearing. Black v white , Alice v Ronnie and at the end the reason the children were disappearing, All good stuff.
And all the way through I just wanted to know the truth , But i still did not want it to be Alice or Ronnie.

Very good book Laura, thanks for taking the trouble to come on here.


Roger
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norby
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« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2007 »

I'm only about halfway through, but I've read the book before and what really stuck with me was the feeling of awkwardness of the interactions between the people in the book.  You're left with a feeling that their race isn't really supposed to be why it's there, but you know that it is.  It's something that can permeate life in America. 

As someone else mentioned, there's also the interaction between women.  That can be a tricky minefield.  Make one of them a women who lost her child under tragic circumstances, another a childlike woman eager to please, a third untrusting and cynical, oh and the latter two are responsible for the death of the first's child.  Not to mention the detective who's trying to make sense of all of them and the case she has.

When I read the book I can imagine the heat and haze of the summer days that the characters are moving through-the humidity that saps your soul out through your heart and it's a wonder that any of them are sane.

Just some first half thoughts...
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LauraL
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2007 »

Quote from: Leigh link=topic=1000.msg28117#msg28117 date=1174928619
I have probably got it completely wrong but to each character their looks played a large role in their lives and it is said we live on through our children.

No, I don't think you have it wrong at all. EST, on some level, is about the very human need to categorize and divide. We begin, I think, by breaking people into two distinct groups: Like me/Not like me. Our guideline may be race, class, physical attractiveness, neighborhood, profession, etc. And, of course, there are always further divisions to be made after that first one.

In the particular case of Cynthia, I think she is tortured by the notion of Rosalind as a "replacement baby." She also is very aware of her own appearance and how it has led people to judge her. She wants people to see Rosalind as an individual, not a child to be compared to Olivia, yet Cynthia herself cannot help making such comparisons.

By the way, Cynthia and Rosalind have an unbilled cameo in the next book, which is already out in the U.S.
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Jez
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« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2007 »

Just finished the book and am still getting my breath back. It took me quite a long time to get into and, unlike Chelbel,  I had to flick back a few times (I'm blaming the fact I'm having a busy time at the moment and am struggling to concentrate generally), but boy, it was worth it. I agree with Rockchick's feeling that it might not be crime fiction. It isn't a what I would call a "genre" piece, its originality destinguishes it from so much of the stuff that is out there.
Once I had got a reasonable handle on the various characters it really took off for me. I loved the way that political relationships fuelled the behaviour of Mira, Nancy and Sharon and I loved the way Helen's imperfections had such a profound effect on events.
Cynthia? To have lived through what happened to her it would be possible to excuse her of almost anything but I feel it is a strength of the book that she is not completely sympathetic. For me that makes her easier to understand.
Ronnie? - I just want to weep.
Alice? - Chilling. There's another story there, methinks.
Laura, many thanks for joining us. I've not read any of your other books, which do you recommend next?
Best wishes, G
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norby
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« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2007 »

Hey gungho, I know you're asking Laura, and I'll be curious to she what she says, but I've read most of her books and I'd recommend The Power of Three for your next Laura Lippman book.  It's really something.  The Tess Monaghan books are great too.

The Power of Three was the first book of Laura's that I read and it prompted me to check out her other books.  Smiley
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