Genre: Fiction
Published: 31 May 2019
Publisher: Jacaranda

A Book Of Secrets

by Kate Morrison

A Book of Secrets is the story of a woman named Susan Charlewood living in Elizabethan England. Born in what is now Ghana, Susan is enslaved by the Portuguese but later rescued by British sailors, who bring her to England. Once in England, she is raised and educated in an English Catholic household.

When Susan comes of age, the family marry her off to an older Catholic man, John Charlewood. Charlewood runs a printing press and uses it to supply the Papist nobility with illegal Catholic texts and foment rebellion amongst the Catholic underclass. When Charlewood dies, Susan takes over the business and uses her new position to find out more about her origins.

A look at racial relationships on the eve of the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade, A Book of Secrets is a revealing and compelling glimpse into a fraught time.

"A tale of religious fervour, loyalty, piracy, desire and identity, The Book of Secrets is a masterful piece of storytelling that draws you into a Tudor London you won’t have visited before. Our guide, Susan (or Nsowah), who was born in Ghana but raised in Sussex, inhabits a world of printers, crypto-Catholics, Jewish conversos, pirates and Guinea traders. Her city is much more diverse and permeable than is often assumed: we learn that a Tudor ‘blackamoor’ could also be a wife, learn a trade, and become an intelligencer. But this is no heavy-handed history lesson; Susan’s quest to find security, happiness, and discover her true identity intrigues the reader from the start, has us rooting for her through her gripping adventures and leaves us wanting more." - Miranda Kaufmann
"A Book of Secrets is fresh and impressively researched. With its engaging heroine, Nsowah / Susan positioned at the very heart of an Elizabethan drama, Morrison offers an intriguing and important update on historical novels where black characters have been either absent or confined to the margins. Morrison’s rich and complex rendering of the interior of Nsowah’s life shows her to be an empathic and talented new writer." - Colin Grant
"One of the many strengths of this novel is Susan’s tender sensibility as narrator. Intelligent and observant, loyal and brave, she’s the moral compass who guides us. Her life in London is dangerous. Morrison ably evokes the claustrophobic political atmosphere of the Elizabethan age." - Book Oxygen
"A Book of Secrets gives an urgent and exciting voice to a black woman in Elizabethan England at a time when slavery in England was not legally enforceable. Susan Charlewood is the kind of interesting and powerful character that merits another outing in a sequel, maybe, especially in these troubled times when racial divisions and modern slavery are a scourge on our society." - Historial Novel Society