The Secret Rooms

by Catherine Bailey | History |
ISBN: 9780143124733 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 4/15/2021
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Thursday, April 15, 2021
I found this softcover in this Little Free Library in Shirley MA while dropping off some books of my own, and nabbed it for another release copy.

It centers on the archives of an aristocratic British family, which were sealed in 1940 when the 9th Duke of Rutland died in the archive rooms. Sixty years later, historians were allowed inside...

That was from the cover-blurb; the actual events weren't quite so dramatic, but there are still plenty of bizarre, creepy, and often poignant revelations. The author, having heard of the archive of war-related documents, asked permission to examine them for a new book - but once she stumbled across a segment of vanished documents, one so sharp and crossing so many sources that it had to be deliberate - she started a new investigation.

The tale unwinds slowly, with lots of nods to archivists of all types - something I appreciated, but that some readers might find a bit tedious in the details. And whether the final conclusion about why these segments of documents were hidden or destroyed (three different chunks of time in all) strikes the reader as satisfactory may also vary; I found myself content with two explanations out of three, fwiw.

[Spoilers follow; stop reading if you'd rather discover them in the course of the book.]


The story depicts the often-bleak inner lives of several members of the family of the dukes of Rutland, focusing on the 9th Duke and his parents. The most poignant bit had to do with the awful death of his older brother at the age of nine; it was a death that could have been avoided even then if only his condition had been known, and that would have been easily treated now, but at the time circumstances conspired to give the poor boy a prolonged and painful end. And it seemed that this resulted directly in his younger brother (the future 9th duke) being sent away to live with his uncle, though was it for his own sake or because his mother, besotted with her eldest son and devastated by his loss, couldn't bear to look at him?

As the author dug into other sources to fill in the missing data from the ducal archives, she revealed a conspiracy of sorts, intended to keep the future duke out of the front lines in WWI despite his own wishes to fight. This bit was wrenching in many respects; we see the roll call of village folk, Rutland-estate servants, and others who went to war and did not return, while John was assigned to a staff position away from the lines. Bitter letters to and about his parents turned up in unexpected places, providing too clear a look at a very dysfunctional family - and making it all the more tragic to imagine the 9th Duke's last days, when it seemed he was still attempting to excise the most painful bits of his personal history from the family archives...

Evocative mix of history and family, with glimpses of daily life in the early 20th century. Fascinating book!

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Little Free Library, Montsweag Valley Rd in Wiscasset, Maine USA on Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Released 1 mo ago (5/19/2021 UTC) at Little Free Library, Montsweag Valley Rd in Wiscasset, Maine USA


Guidelines for safely visiting and stocking Little Free Libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic, from the LFL site here.

I went on the first post-COVID lobster-run along the southern Maine coast with a friend today, and after having an awesome lobster roll at Red's we stopped by this LFL. Hope someone enjoys the book!

[See other recent releases in ME here.]

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