In April 1940, the ninth Duke of Rutland died in mysterious circumstances in one of the rooms of his family estate, Belvoir Castle. The mystery surrounding these rooms holds the key to a tragic story that is played out on the brutal battlefields of the Western Front and in the exclusive salons of Mayfair and Belgravia in the dying years of la belle époque. Uncovered is a dark and disturbing period in the history of the Rutland family, and one which they were determined to keep hidden for over 60 years. Sixty years on, The Secret Rooms is the true story of family secrets and one man’s determination to keep the past hidden at any cost.
©2012 Catherine Bailey (P)2012 Audible Ltd
OCD over books, listening to 1 a day; ANY genre, fact & fiction. Influenced by Audible reviewers so I keep mine unbiased - FRONT to BLACK!
Without spoiling the end, this is not much of a mystery. Nor is the underlying subject of any real interest. The author takes a small kernel in the lives of a family and tries to make it into a full-length book. She would have done better to have written a fictional novel based loosely on a true story. This is a hot mess of minutiae and repetition mixed with a large dose of speculation. I can't understand why anyone would put this much time in researching absolutely nothing! The narrator reads like he is really building up to a great surprise ending. Since nothing was happening hour after hour, he put me to sleep quicker than Ambien! The minor trivia learned in this book would fit in a Snapple Tea bottle cap!
European history professor specializing in English history 1870-1939.
A riveting book. I am not entirely certain that I agree with all of the author's conclusions, but she has done a fabulous job of detective work (a major part of the story), and this is particularly fascinating for anyone who is familiar with the era or the characters.
No one comes out looking very admirable.
The boxes of old letters the duke did not manage to destroy.
Excellent and absorbing.
Avid reader of history, biography, and true crime.
This is on my list of best-ever reads. The author's tracking down of documents and other clues to solve the mystery of the title is beautifully paced. As she follows the trail, the two principal settings, life of the privileged upper classes and the trenches of the Western Front, are excellently depicted. She writes well and maintains the suspense throughout. Stephen Rashbrook's narration is perfect - his voice, his accent, foreign pronunciations, pace, evocation of mood - wonderful! This book and the reader are highly recommended.
It could you a severe editing.
Enough with the lists of soldiers and silver.
Time, I could've read it faster.
It's good for a while, then in the final 1/3 gets bogged down in British oddity and indulgence.
First, I have to say that the narration was superb on this audiobook and it made what was a nice little mystery with a poorly structured narrative bearable. Researchers are, understandably, in love with their own process and so they should be. But it's a mistake to believe this automatically translates into a compelling story structure.
There were a number of ways to go about using what is a very interesting set of factual events to construct a novel: you can simply dramatize the facts and weave them into a historical novel (with either the research subject as the narrator or a secondary character as narrator); you can construct the whole piece as a collection of found documents, the way Dracula is constructed, in epistolary form; or you can take the contemporary discovery approach by having the researcher there in the story as a quasi-detective (as was done here). The mistake that researchers who try to turn their research into prose often make is to present themselves as an inert figure. No entity in a story is ever inert and attempting to present them that way is always a mistake in anything but academic writing which is why I agree with an earlier reviewer that this reads slightly like someone's PhD thesis.
Another problem with the story is repetition. This could have used an editor with a firmer hand. Repeating research findings is perfectly acceptable in academic writing, but it's just irritating in what needs to have a more fluid approach. Trust your reader to remember what you wrote three chapters ago. They usually do.
Finally, this this was irritating, the author telegraphs important discovery events by hyping what she's found before she tells you what it is. This really spoils the a-ha moment for a prose-reader. If anything, the opposite approach is more effective. To downplay the advent before a really surprising discovery is revealed.
Sounds like a really unsatisfactory audiobook, but it wasn't. Admittedly, this isn't a book of startling and shocking revelations. It's a gentle, poignant and almost literary unfolding of a man's life. But the core of it is an intriguing story. And, as I said at the beginning, the narration is outstanding, and mitigates a lot of the structural flaws.
This is well researched book ,more like a PhD thesis than a story.It refects well the era of the First World War and the power of the nobility.
The detail like the names and size of each picture in inches listed in sales catalogue sold to raise money for the estate is truly boring and annoying.,the same can be said of other lists.
The narrator is clear but dry and does not articulate well between characters. The storyline remains interesting but seems to lose some of its original allure.
Actually having a gothic mystery, This was so boring,
Just do not tittlate me. Promising a gothic mystery when it was nothing mysterious.
There really isn't much of a mystery - a lot of build-up is made then revealed to be mundane, not-particularly-unique life events. Also, it was WAY too long - there were well written and entertaining sections that might have made up for the lack of substance, had there been a competent editor working with the author.
Probably not - this was such a let down.
Performance of the reader was good, he just had very little to work with.
Sadly, character needs to be ADDED in order to make this book more enjoyable.
This book is so much NOT what it says it is. I suppose if it was properly titled "Family Letters of English Minor Aristocracy during the early 20th Century" it wouldn't have sold very well.
"Great read. Great narration."
I have to admit to a strong partiality to Catherine Bailey's writing (I loved Black Diamonds) and this book didn't disappoint. Listening to this over the weekend of the Remembrance Sunday gave it added poignancy. The narrator was excellent! Great read!
"Fascinating family mystery/history"
I really enjoyed this book - it has intrigue, a love story, tragedy and history. Beautifully narrated at a good pace.
The only reason I haven't given it 5 is because at times it could be long-winded and there was repetition, which confused me!
I think I preferred Black Diamonds.
"It might be true but it isn't Gothic"
A historian might enjoy the book but there was no suspense and no real mystery. There wasn't really a hidden room or anything that was worth hiding.
Fine, he has a good voice and managed to read it without falling asleep.
The very worst part of the book was (I assume) half an hour reading the names if every single man who died in WW1 who had been born in, lived in or even visited Leicester. I say assume because I managed 2 minutes then fast forwarded 28 minutes and it was still going on!!!! Well done to the reader. He must have been at his wits end by then.
"Strange but true !!!!"
Yes I would listen to this book again because I found it a more compelling listen then many fiction novels. In fact at times I had to remind myself that it was not a novel.
That is was true, that the hero/villain of the plot had actually existed, and also the way in which the writer had set out to research one subject but uncovered the initial information which led to this book being written. I also found the methodology of the research interesting. Also, the book is not written like many non-fiction or biographical books. The prose is lively and perfectly read.
No particular scene but overall the relationships between the different individuals was quite fascinating.
No, not particularly, but neither was it a book that I did not want to finish.
I shall never visit Belvoir again without remembering this book and the secret rooms !!!!!!!
"It does get better if you persevere"
The first half of the book is intended to sound like a mystery thriller, the intrepid search for the truth behind certain gaps in the record left behind by John, the 9th Duke of Rutland. Catherine Bailey does not succeed in making it sound anything more than an expose of how tedious it can be to research a novel. Nevertheless, the second half of the novel is given more to the subject of the book than her own investigations and here the book becomes interesting. If the book had been written as a biography of this Duke instead of trying to make the writer sound like a rather boring character in a spy novel I think the pace of the book would have been much faster and the general impression less irritating.
The descriptions of life at the front with the gruesome casualty records make for mind-boggling reading even though the scale of killing in the Second World War is obviously even more horrific.
If the writers left out the part played by Catherine Bailey and stuck to the history of the family I think this would make for a reasonable costume drama.
The story was gripping and the complex family relationships absorbing.
The 'cliffhangers' and the atmospheric detail made me eager to hear more.
The performance was excellent.
Although there was some repetition in the narrative, I found it helpful in reminding me important details which I might otherwise have forgotten.
"A little confusing sometimes, but AMAZING"
I don't do three words: I'd sum up by saying these family secrets are true; we've come to expect secrets/revelations to be of the costume drama variety and many seem disappointed when they are perhaps not on that scale. But these secrets/revelations are true, and the fact that at least one - if not two - would have been illegal/serious criminal offences surely cannot make them run-of-the-mill as some reviewers have suggested.
Black Diamonds also by Catherine equally deals with the history of a landed gentry family.
His performance was excellent and kept me riveted, even through the more difficult parts.
I had an incredible emotional reaction to the book when - having had a wonderful visit to Haddon Hall only weeks earlier - realised two of the figures being discussed were the two figures who had captured my imagination with their tragic story during my Haddon visit. It really made the entire story 3-dimensional from that point onwards.
Having recently become very acquainted with the story of two key figures from the book at Haddon Hall, this was an absolutely riveting listen for me. I would have given it five stars (particularly for the narration) save for the fact that I do think Catherine had lost the structure somewhat as so many things came to light.
It should be remembered this book came out completely differently to the book Catherine was actually researching; and so the revelations as discovered take the book in different directions. Some reviewers have commented this 'bogged it down'/made it confusing - I didn't find this was the case, but felt that - as with any researcher coming across pieces of information that need to be later linked together - we were presented with Catherine's raw research as she found it rather than 'tidy stories+summaries'. I can understand this would be irksome to people who like stories to be clean and neat - but this is the truth about a family, not a Downton Abbey episode. Some of the items discovered cannot be concluded because the evidence is not there to do so, and I admire Catherine that she had the courage to simply present the evidence and leave things open, allowing you to consider what may have happened instead of surmising a conclusion that could be totally untrue.
The only reason I have dropped a star is because the book presented the discoveries in the order Catherine discovered them yet wasn't particularly a book about Catherine as a researcher. Therefore items ran into each other in the order they were found, not a chronological order (i.e. we jumped about between the death of a Duke, his army career, back to a tragedy in his childhood and early life, back to the army, over to Charles I ciphers, then family feuds, etc). So, it was sometimes hard to keep track of what was discovery was linking to what. But I think the key is to remember this is all true: and if the evidence isn't there to provide a convenient Downton Abbey conclusion it's actually quite exciting to be left with 'well, what do I think happened!'.
If you like clean, drama-series stories and conclusions you probably won't like this; but if you would love to listen to the findings of a meticulous researcher who presents her findings and then says 'so what do you make of that then?' and you won't necessarily have a concluding answer because that evidence isn't there, you will love it.
Personally, in relation to just one of the revelations - having visited Haddon Hall and been touched by the personal tragedy the family experienced, the book gave me some understanding as to why - through unimaginable grief and a complete misunderstanding - John's mother may have reacted to him the way she did in his early life. Not to condone their parental actions at all (they were terrible and tragic) but - when grief can be described as a madness of the mind - the book can explain and give understanding to them, and show the terrible effects such a loss can have.
"Enthralling story , excellent narration."
Excellent narration, enjoyed the first part of the book the best, feeling really intrigued by the mystery in the story. Later on I sometimes felt a little confused with all the comings & goings concerning the war and the many letters & perhaps the author over emphasised this aspect ( just a little) to illustrate the point of the story. Overall though really enjoyed this title.
"captivating until the last"
An unusual account of a a in full family history. kept me gripped throughout. Excellent narrator bought the characters to life. The only thing is that there were some loose ends but it is real life! well written . I am a confirmed Catherine Bailey fan. Can't wait for more of the same
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