The House of Secrets by Sarra Manning

‘Extremely atmospheric and unputdownable. I loved it’ Marian Keyes

Every home has a story to tell . . .

An ordinary house on an ordinary street, built in 1936 and never lived in. Its rooms might be empty, but this house is full of secrets.

When Zoe and Win, raw and reeling from a recent tragedy, move into their new home it’s meant to be a fresh start and a way to mend the holes in their relationship.

But pushed to the back of a cupboard is a suitcase that’s been gathering dust for eighty years. Inside is a wedding dress, letters and a diary all belonging to a woman called Libby. And there’s something else in the suitcase, something that echoes Zoe’s own pain.

Zoe follows Libby’s trail from Paris to Spain on the brink of Civil War to secret trysts in London, and as Libby finds the courage to live and love again, Zoe begins to let go of her own grief.

But when Libby’s story takes a darker turn, Zoe becomes increasingly obsessed with discovering what really happened all those years ago. Because if Libby managed to get her happy ever after then maybe Zoe and Win can too . . .

Published: 10 August 2017 (UK)
e-book: Out Now (UK)

I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sarra Manning has always had a way with words and places, it is something that has constantly drawn me back to her work, whether for a first read or a re-read. Unsurprisingly this book is no different. Set in the late 1930s London and also present day she manages to explore a London of two very different times, echoing the worries (and suspicions) alongside social values and norms prevalent in the respective time periods. These are brought more and more to the fore as the realisation of legislation that many take for granted nowadays was so much different 80 years ago. 

Modern Day

Zoe and Win never planned on buying a house but following a tragedy in their old home it would never feel like home again, moving was supposed to be the new start they needed. Yet, Zoe and Win aren’t who they once were and during the book we see them fight to stay as they were although that is impossible now. The discovery of the suitcase and the contents within show that Zoe is a romantic at heart, an idealist and someone who looks to fate to help her and Win be happy. 

Win is an accountant who even in his personal life has to manage everything to a T, but as the book progresses there is an understanding why he feels that he has to be in control all the time as personal demons from his childhood rear their head in an attempt to rock the boat that he and Zoe are sailing on. Personally I found that these characters, although engaging, lacked a little of the drama that was being read in Libby’s entries. However this may simply be because there was nothing mysterious or scandalous about Zoe and Win. Their story, much like Libby’s starts off in tragedy but ends with everything coming together in a heart warming hug of happiness. 


Libby and Freddy were always meant to be she thought, but then Libby loves deeply yet easily. Back in London staying with her mother – in – law, Libby needs to work. It is during a one off job that she meets Hugo, an aloof sales-man hoping for his wife to divorce him. In 1936 there needed to be a clear case of adultery to be able to divorce. As they get to know each other they fall in love but with Freddy in Spain during the start of the civil war, things start to go awry. 

Libby is passionate and very independent for a woman at the time. She is not someone who will go down without a fight, and when someone wants to take all her happiness and joy away we see how she is able to overcome the pressure on her and blossom. Libby is a much more interesting character to read about as her life is at a cross-roads and choosing one route from the other isn’t clear cut. 

Overall this book shows how a loss of something important to you, whether you knew it at the time or not can really change who you are as a person whether you want it too or not. However the happiness that comes with life is evident throughout the book even during the sad times and I for one am glad that Sarra Manning once again has written a corker of a book. 

4.5 stars


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