Can You Keep a Secret?

By Sophie Kinsella


Welcome to the whimsical world of Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella! 📚✨ This novel, a delightful concoction of humor, romance, and life’s unexpected twists, first graced bookshelves in 2003 and has since become a beloved staple in the chick-lit genre. Sophie Kinsella, a pseudonym for Madeleine Wickham, is a maestro of contemporary fiction, particularly renowned for her knack for creating relatable, flawed, yet utterly lovable characters that capture the hearts of readers around the globe.

Set primarily in London, this book weaves the tale of Emma Corrigan, a young woman with a few too many secrets that unwittingly spill out to a stranger on a turbulent flight. Little does she know, her confessions haven’t landed on just any stranger’s ears but those of her company’s elusive CEO. As these secrets start intertwining with her daily life, Emma’s world gets hilariously complicated.

Kinsella’s writing plunges us into a story that’s as much about the pitfalls of keeping secrets as it is about the liberation and chaos that comes with letting them go. If you’re diving in for the first time or revisiting for a cozy reread, prepare for laughter, empathy, and a gentle reminder of the importance of honesty—with oneself and others. 🌟 Let’s embark on this journey of self-discovery, love, and the endless surprises life throws our way, all wrapped up in Kinsella’s signature light-hearted, engaging style.

Plot Summary

Can You Keep a Secret? unfolds the captivating and comedic story of Emma Corrigan, a young marketing assistant with a life that seems to be a tad off-track. Here’s how her journey unfolds:

Exposition — Emma Corrigan is your average girl next door, grappling with her slightly underwhelming job at Panther Corporation and her relationship with her boyfriend, Connor. She harbors many secrets, from her actual weight to her lack of knowledge about her boyfriend’s birthplace.

Rising Action — During a particularly turbulent flight back to London, thinking she’s on the brink of death, Emma spills all her secrets to a stranger sitting next to her. She confesses everything from her true feelings about her friends and colleagues to her embarrassing habits.

Climax — The twist? The stranger is none other than Jack Harper, the CEO of Panther Corporation. Emma’s mortification hits a peak when she realizes that her impromptu confessional was to her enigmatic boss, a revelation that turns her world upside down.

Falling Action — Instead of the catastrophe Emma imagines, Jack finds her honesty refreshing. Back at work, Emma finds herself in a whirlwind of changes. She starts to work closely with Jack on a new project, and her career takes a promising turn. However, the secrets she shared come back to haunt her in both hilarious and heartwarming ways, affecting her relationships and career.

Resolution — Through a series of misadventures, misunderstandings, and personal growth, Emma learns the value of being true to oneself. She confronts her fears, stands up for what she believes in, and takes charge of her happiness. The novel concludes with Emma and Jack acknowledging their feelings for each other, moving beyond the secrets and toward a future together.

Throughout this roller-coaster ride, Can You Keep a Secret? keeps the reader engaged with its perfect blend of humor, romance, and life lessons, culminating in a satisfyingly sweet resolution that reminds us all of the power of honesty and vulnerability.

Character Analysis

In Can You Keep a Secret?, Sophie Kinsella introduces us to a cast of vibrant characters, each bringing their unique flavors to the story’s rich tapestry. Here’s a closer look at the main characters and their journeys:

  • Emma Corrigan — Emma is the quintessential girl next door, relatable and endearingly flawed. With a penchant for oversharing at the wrong moments, her journey is one of self-discovery and empowerment. Throughout the book, Emma learns the importance of honesty, not just with others but with herself. Her character development is marked by her growing confidence and ability to confront her fears.
  • Jack Harper — The enigmatic CEO of Panther Corporation, Jack is initially a mystery to Emma and the readers. As the story unfolds, he reveals a more approachable and understanding side. His interest in Emma, sparked by her unguarded honesty, showcases his appreciation for authenticity over pretense. Jack’s character explores themes of loneliness and the facades people maintain in high-power positions.
  • Jemima — Emma’s best friend and roommate, Jemima, plays a crucial role in Emma’s life as her confidante and support system. Her character brings humor and wisdom to the story, often being the voice of reason for Emma. Jemima’s loyalty and straightforwardness highlight the importance of having genuine friendships.
  • Connor — Emma’s boyfriend at the start of the novel, Connor, represents comfort and familiarity. However, his relationship with Emma lacks depth, symbolizing the compromises she makes to avoid confrontation or change. Connor’s character underscores the theme of settling in relationships and the growth that comes from seeking more fulfilling connections.
  • Kerry — Emma’s cousin, Kerry, is a minor character but plays a significant role in illustrating family dynamics and expectations. Her competitive relationship with Emma adds a layer of familial pressure and the desire to prove oneself.

Character Analysis Summary:

Emma CorriganRelatable, flawed, honestTo find her true self and live honestlyGrows in confidence, learns to embrace her truths
Jack HarperMysterious, approachable, values authenticityTo connect deeply despite his corporate facadeOpens up, shows vulnerability, pursues genuine connection
JemimaHumorous, loyal, straightforwardTo support and guide EmmaRemains a steadfast friend, providing wisdom and humor
ConnorComfortable, familiar, lacking depthTo maintain the status quoServes as a catalyst for Emma’s self-discovery
KerryCompetitive, pressure-inducingTo outshine Emma, driven by familial rivalryHighlights the theme of familial expectations

These characters, with their unique personalities and journeys, weave together a story that’s as much about finding oneself as it is about the connections we forge with others. Through laughter, missteps, and heartfelt moments, Can You Keep a Secret? delivers a compelling narrative of growth and love.

Themes and Symbols

Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella is rich with themes and symbols that add depth to its engaging plot and characters. Let’s delve into some of the major themes and symbols present in the book:


  • Honesty and Authenticity — The heart of the novel revolves around the value and consequences of honesty. Emma’s candid confessions to Jack on the plane set the stage for a story that explores the importance of being true to oneself and others. This theme is a reminder of how authenticity can lead to genuine connections and opportunities for growth.
  • Self-Discovery and Personal Growth — Emma’s journey is a testament to the ups and downs of self-discovery. From navigating her career to understanding her desires in relationships, her path reflects the universal quest for identity and fulfillment. The theme encourages readers to embrace their own journeys, with all their vulnerabilities and strengths.
  • The Impact of Secrets — As suggested by the title, secrets play a crucial role in the narrative. They act as barriers to intimacy and understanding, yet also serve as catalysts for change. The unfolding of secrets throughout the story highlights the dual nature of hidden truths and their power to both harm and heal.
  • Relationship Dynamics — The novel explores various facets of relationships, from romantic entanglements to friendships and familial bonds. Through these interactions, Kinsella examines the complexities of communication, trust, and compatibility, offering insights into the ingredients of meaningful connections.


  • The Turbulent Flight — The flight where Emma spills her secrets symbolizes life’s unpredictable journey. Just as the turbulence prompts Emma to reveal her innermost thoughts, life’s challenges often push individuals to confront their truths and fears.
  • The Panther Corporation — Serving as the backdrop for much of the story, the Panther Corporation represents the often impersonal and challenging corporate world. Emma’s experiences within the company highlight themes of ambition, ethics, and the search for authenticity in a professional setting.
  • Emma’s Scarf — A gift from her grandmother, Emma’s scarf is a symbol of comfort and heritage. It represents the warmth of familial love and the importance of staying connected to one’s roots amid life’s changes.
  • The Locked Box — Referenced throughout the novel, the locked box where Emma keeps her most personal items is a metaphor for the parts of ourselves we keep hidden from the world. It signifies the fear of vulnerability and the liberation that comes with sharing one’s true self.

Through these themes and symbols, Can You Keep a Secret? weaves a narrative that is both entertaining and thought-provoking, inviting readers to reflect on their own lives and the value of honesty, growth, and connection.

Writing Style and Tone

Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? is a masterpiece of light-hearted, engaging storytelling that resonates with readers looking for both humor and depth. Let’s break down the key elements of Kinsella’s writing style and tone that make this novel so captivating:

  • Humorous and Relatable — Kinsella excels at infusing her narrative with a sense of humor that is both witty and self-deprecating. Through Emma’s internal monologues and the situations she finds herself in, the author brings a level of relatability and laughter that keeps readers hooked and entertained.
  • Conversational and Accessible — The prose in Can You Keep a Secret? is marked by its conversational tone, making it feel like a friend sharing their most embarrassing yet heartfelt story. This accessibility ensures that readers from all walks of life can dive into Emma’s world without feeling alienated by overly complex language or concepts.
  • Engaging and Fast-Paced — Kinsella’s writing style is brisk and engaging, propelling the story forward with a series of events that ensure there’s never a dull moment. The fast pace is balanced with moments of introspection and emotion, creating a well-rounded reading experience.
  • Emotionally Resonant — Despite its light-hearted surface, the novel delves into themes of vulnerability, love, and personal growth, offering readers moments of genuine emotional resonance. Kinsella skillfully navigates the balance between making readers laugh and touching their hearts.
  • Character-Driven — The author’s focus on character development is evident throughout the book. Emma’s journey of self-discovery and the nuanced portrayal of secondary characters add layers to the narrative, making the story feel personal and impactful.
  • Descriptive and Imaginative — Kinsella uses vivid descriptions and imaginative scenarios to bring her story to life. From the chaos of Emma’s disastrous confession to the nuanced expressions of silent communication between characters, the vivid detail adds depth and color to the narrative.

In Can You Keep a Secret?, Sophie Kinsella’s writing style and tone are integral to the book’s success, offering a delightful mix of humor, heart, and honesty. The author’s ability to weave a tale that is both entertaining and insightful is a testament to her skill as a storyteller, making this novel a memorable read for anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction.

Literary Devices used in Can You Keep a Secret?

Sophie Kinsella skillfully employs a variety of literary devices in Can You Keep a Secret? to enrich the narrative, deepen character development, and enhance thematic resonance. Here are the top 10 devices used:

  1. Irony — The novel is rich in situational irony, especially highlighted by the fact that Emma spills all her secrets to a stranger who turns out to be her CEO. This ironic twist sets the stage for the unfolding drama and humor.
  2. Foreshadowing — Kinsella uses subtle hints and clues about future events, such as Emma’s discomfort in her relationship with Connor, which foreshadows the eventual realization that they are not suited for each other.
  3. Metaphor — Metaphors are used to draw comparisons that deepen the reader’s understanding of characters and situations. For instance, Emma’s journey of self-discovery is often likened to navigating a ship through stormy seas, symbolizing her turbulent quest for personal and professional fulfillment.
  4. Simile — Similar to metaphors, similes are used throughout the novel to make creative comparisons, like describing the panic of spilling secrets as feeling like “ants crawling under my skin,” enhancing the emotional depth of Emma’s experiences.
  5. Hyperbole — Exaggeration is employed for comedic effect, particularly in Emma’s internal monologue, where her reactions to situations are often blown out of proportion, such as the catastrophic imagining of the consequences of her confessions.
  6. Personification — Kinsella gives human qualities to non-human elements to emphasize emotional states, such as describing fear as “wrapping its cold fingers around her heart,” which amplifies the intensity of Emma’s feelings.
  7. Dialogue — The lively and authentic dialogues drive the narrative forward, revealing character traits, and building relationships. Kinsella’s use of dialogue effectively captures the essence of each character’s voice.
  8. Imagery — Vivid imagery is used to paint pictures in the reader’s mind, such as the detailed descriptions of Emma’s chaotic work environment or the cozy settings where more intimate conversations take place, drawing readers deeper into the world of the novel.
  9. Symbolism — Objects and situations in the novel often carry deeper meanings. For example, the locked box where Emma keeps her secrets symbolizes her fear of vulnerability and the weight of the secrets we carry.
  10. Alliteration — The use of alliteration adds a lyrical quality to the prose, enhancing its readability and aesthetic appeal, although used sparingly, it punctuates the text at moments of significance or humor.

These literary devices are woven seamlessly into the fabric of the story, enhancing its richness and engaging the reader on multiple levels. Kinsella’s adept use of these tools not only entertains but also invites readers to reflect on the themes and emotions that underpin the narrative.

Literary Device Examples

For each of the top 10 literary devices identified in Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella, here are examples and explanations in a detailed table format:

1. Irony

Emma confessing her secrets to a stranger who turns out to be her CEO.This situation is ironic because Emma believes she is speaking to someone who has no connection to her life, only to discover he’s in a position of significant influence over her career.

2. Foreshadowing

Emma’s feeling of unease in her relationship with Connor early in the novel.This foreshadows the eventual realization and breakup, hinting at their incompatibility and Emma’s journey towards finding true happiness.

3. Metaphor

Comparing Emma’s journey to navigating a ship through stormy seas.This metaphor reflects the tumultuous and uncertain nature of Emma’s personal and professional growth, emphasizing the challenges she faces.

4. Simile

Describing panic as feeling like “ants crawling under my skin.”This simile vividly conveys the intense discomfort and anxiety Emma experiences, making her emotional state relatable to the reader.

5. Hyperbole

Emma’s catastrophic imagining of the fallout from her confessions.The exaggeration here highlights Emma’s tendency to overthink and expect the worst, adding humor to her character’s inner turmoil.

6. Personification

Fear wrapping its cold fingers around her heart.By giving fear human characteristics, this personification intensifies the emotional impact of Emma’s anxiety and dread, making it more palpable.

7. Dialogue

The exchanges between Emma and Jack that reveal their personalities.The dialogues are pivotal in developing their relationship and character arcs, offering insights into their thoughts and feelings in a direct, engaging way.

8. Imagery

The detailed descriptions of Emma’s chaotic work environment.Such imagery draws readers into the setting, making the narrative more immersive by appealing to the senses.

9. Symbolism

The locked box where Emma keeps her secrets.This symbolizes her fear of vulnerability and the emotional burden of carrying secrets, underscoring themes of honesty and openness.

10. Alliteration

“She shivered slightly, sensing something sinister.”The repetition of the ‘s’ sound enhances the mood of the sentence, emphasizing the tension and Emma’s apprehension in that moment.

These examples showcase how Sophie Kinsella employs various literary devices to enrich the narrative of Can You Keep a Secret?, adding layers of meaning, enhancing emotional resonance, and contributing to the overall enjoyment of the novel.

Can You Keep a Secret? – FAQs

Q: What is the main theme of Can You Keep a Secret?
A: The main theme revolves around the importance of honesty and authenticity, both with oneself and in relationships with others. It explores the liberating yet sometimes complicated consequences of being truthful.

Q: Who is the protagonist of Can You Keep a Secret?
A: The protagonist is Emma Corrigan, a young woman working in marketing who accidentally spills all her secrets to a stranger on a plane, only to find out he is her company’s CEO.

Q: How does Emma Corrigan change throughout the book?
A: Emma evolves from being insecure and somewhat dissatisfied with her life to becoming more confident and honest. She learns to value her own happiness and the importance of being truthful in her relationships.

Q: What literary devices are used in Can You Keep a Secret?
A: Sophie Kinsella uses a variety of literary devices, including irony, foreshadowing, metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification, dialogue, imagery, symbolism, and alliteration to enhance the story’s depth and engagement.

Q: Can you explain the significance of the title Can You Keep a Secret?
A: The title reflects the central plot of the story—Emma’s accidental confession of her secrets to her CEO. It also alludes to the broader themes of trust, privacy, and the consequences of sharing or concealing personal truths.

Q: What impact do Emma’s secrets have on her professional life?
A: Initially, Emma fears her candidness will have disastrous consequences. However, her honesty leads to unforeseen opportunities, fostering a unique bond with her boss and catalyzing her career growth.

Q: How does Sophie Kinsella develop the characters besides Emma?
A: Through detailed backgrounds, distinct voices in dialogue, and their interactions with Emma, Kinsella develops rich, multifaceted characters. Each character, from Jack Harper to Emma’s friend Jemima, undergoes personal growth or reveals depth that contributes to the story’s themes.

Q: What makes Can You Keep a Secret? a good choice for readers new to Sophie Kinsella’s work?
A: Its relatable protagonist, engaging plot, mix of humor and heartfelt moments, and themes of personal growth make it accessible and enjoyable. It embodies Kinsella’s signature style, making it a perfect introduction to her work.


What is Emma Corrigan’s job at the beginning of the novel?Sales AssistantMarketing AssistantPublic Relations SpecialistGraphic Designer
Who does Emma accidentally confess her secrets to?Her best friendA stranger on a planeHer boyfriendHer boss
What major theme does the novel explore?RevengeHonesty and authenticityTime travelSupernatural events
How does Emma’s relationship with her CEO, Jack Harper, change throughout the story?It becomes strained and difficultIt remains strictly professionalIt develops into a romantic relationshipThey become rivals
Which literary device is prominently used when describing Emma’s panic as feeling like ‘ants crawling under my skin’?MetaphorSimilePersonificationHyperbole
What symbolizes Emma’s fear of vulnerability?A locked boxA stormy seaA broken mirrorA red scarf
What is a significant outcome of Emma’s honesty?She is demoted at workShe loses all her friendsIt leads to unforeseen opportunitiesIt results in her moving to another country
Which character serves as Emma’s confidante and support system?JemimaConnorKerryJack

This quiz is designed to test comprehension and recall of Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella, focusing on key plot points, themes, characters, and literary devices.


Identify the literary devices used in the following paragraph from Can You Keep a Secret?:

“After confessing her deepest secrets to a stranger on the plane, Emma felt as though a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. The words had tumbled out of her, unstoppable and freeing, like a river breaking its banks. But now, sitting in the silence of her own living room, the reality of her situation began to dawn on her. The stranger wasn’t just any passerby; he was the CEO of her company, the one person who held the power to either make or break her career.”


  1. Simile – “like a river breaking its banks” compares the relief and uncontrollable flow of Emma’s confessions to the natural phenomenon of a river overflowing, emphasizing the magnitude and liberating effect of her actions.
  2. Metaphor – “a weight had been lifted off her shoulders” uses a common metaphor to describe the feeling of relief Emma experiences after sharing her secrets, suggesting the heavy burden these secrets had been to her.
  3. Irony – The situation is ironic because Emma’s moment of cathartic release comes from confessing to a stranger who turns out to be her CEO, creating a tension between the intended anonymity of her confessions and their potential consequences on her professional life.

This exercise encourages students to explore and identify different literary devices used by Sophie Kinsella in Can You Keep a Secret?, enhancing their understanding of how these techniques contribute to the narrative and emotional depth of the story.