Keep your secrets close
Every Secret Thing is the tale of five disparate characters - Marmion, Cressida, Stephen, Bill and Judith - who are all brought together in 1992 when they begin studying at St. Annes, Cambridge. Flung together by their choral studies they are further gelled by a shadowy mentor figure of Fay. Fay clearly has some connection to St. Annes but nobody seems to know quite what that is and she is significantly older than the quintet but a circle of friendship is fast formed.
This friendship culminates in a weekend retreat in 1995, after their finals, when Fay invites them to spend a weekend at her Lakeland country retreat High Scarp. Shadowed by Nags Pike the five have a wonderful time singing in small churches with wonderful acoustics during the day, hearty meals and fireside games in the evenings. However, things start to unravel on the final night with deepseated feelings and thoughts coming to the surface.
Flash forward 20 years and the friends have been summoned to High Scarp for a meeting. One of their number are deceased and nobody is sure where Fay is having lost touch after graduation.
The biggest issue I had with this book was that the story is told almost entirely in the head of whichever character that chapter is named for. I have no problem with the timeshift from chapter to chapter to juxtapose the 1995 Bill (or whoever) with the 2015 Stephen; in some ways this is the only thing that kept me reading. The real issue is that these are deeply unpleasant and completely non-sympathetic characters and I rapidly lost any invested interest in what the outcome for them would be.
The writing is convoluted and frequently I found myself thinking that one word could, and in most cases, should have replaced the five that were used. Writing is a craft but in a novel the story should surpass the craft and in this case craft is very definitely at the forefront.
What could have been a completely engrossing tale of friendship, ove, loss and perfidy becomes a dry treatise in how unpleasant we are to each other and ourselves.