The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret by Catherine Bailey

18079634I loved this book. I wasn’t totally sure what I was getting into when I grabbed this from the library after reading a brief synopsis in a Bas Bleu catalog, but I figured it dealt with the British aristocracy, so I would probably like it.

Catherine Bailey details her trip to Belvoir Castle to look at the family papers of the Dukes who lived there, as she was planning to write a book about World War I and its effect on the villages of England. What she found instead was mystery after mystery surrounding the family itself, perpetuated by the Duke who curated and preserved the very papers she wanted to read. Early on in her stay, she finds that the rooms that contain the papers were sealed after the Duke’s death and had very recently been opened again. Time after time, she is told, “no one goes in those rooms.” She soon discovers why.

The mysteries she can solve are not near as sinister as the title might lead one to believe, but it’s still quite fascinating to read. It reminds me that what we know of history, we only know by what survives. And who decides what survives and why is just as important as the documents themselves.