I’ve been thinking about secrets lately. It seems to me that, at least in personal relationships, what makes them so powerful is not the secrets themselves but the act of concealing them. It is that act that changes the balance and alters the equilibrium because one partner knows something the other does not.
In Harold Pinter’s play Betrayal, Jerry has a long affair with his best friend Robert’s wife, Emma; Jerry, the betrayer, feels betrayed in turn when he discovers that Robert knows about the affair.
It seems to me that secrets are pretty dangerous and best avoided whenever possible. Look at the two great scandals of the twentieth century if you don’t agree. The Profumo affair almost brought down Macmillan’s government and certainly fatally wounded it. If John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, hadn’t lied to Parliament about his affair with nineteen-year-old Christine Keeler, history might have been very different.
With Watergate, it was not the fact that burglars broke into Democratic Party HQ that did for President Nixon, it was the increasingly desperate cover-up that he and his aides tried to orchestrate. A simple, straightforward apology would have been far more effective.
I will not conceal the reason for this particular blog. My eighth novel, The Dangers of Family Secrets is published by Accent Press on June 29. Its subject is the pernicious effects of long-buried secrets on a couple, Felix and Freya, and their twin daughters. Freya is a genealogist and my novel has been partly inspired by friends who’ve uncovered fascinating stories about their ancestors online.
All families have their secrets. It’s how they deal with them that makes them interesting.