Disclaimer: The Secrets We Kept was kindly gifted to me by Penguin Random House SA in exchange for an honest review.
A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice—inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.
At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak’s magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world–using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally’s tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.
The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago’s heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. From Pasternak’s country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature—told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.
The characters in The Secrets We Kept are so diverse and amazingly portrayed. We got queer characters which I found to be interesting to read about as this was a bit difficult to deal with during those times. I think Lara did an amazing job ensuring that readers truly understand how difficult being queer was during that time. I enjoyed how deeply invested the story is in literary background and the aspects of politics really tied in the story perfectly.
The story is told in multiple point of views and let me just say that I rarely get confused by that set up. However, I was so confused in this book especially the first 100 pages or so. I felt like we were reading from different characters and I couldn’t discern which voice I was reading from. But I think it was the fact that the chapters were long and I convinced myself that we are now flowing with the story and the Lara would end that chapter and introduce the next point of view. I did not understand how these characters were going to fit together. But eventually when the story-line intertwined I got to understand how everything flitted together and why I needed to know the previous chapters so to understand clearly. It wad necessary for the author to do that but the chapters could have been shorter.
Personally, I’m so fascinated by stories set in Russia and I really enjoyed the Russian aspect of this book. I learnt quite a bit about the history of Russia during the cold War and how during that time, the Soviet Union was and United States used literature as a weapon. This was interesting and the story of Doctor Zhivago got me hooked.
I must say that reading a story inside a story was just an amazing experience and I think Lara did an excellent job executing that.
The love story is not your typical perfect love story where everyone lives happily ever after. Yet, it was amazing how difficult this love story was and even in those difficult moments they always find a way to each other.
Some of the decisions I did not necessarily agree with but overall the story was amazing and I’d highly recommend it to everyone. I will definitely be checking Doctor Zhivago this weekend and make sure I check all the facts mentioned in the story. Am I the only one who does that (especially when a book is based on true events lol)? Let me know in the comments section.
This is Lara Prescott’s debut novel and I cannot wait to read something by her soon as I loved her writing.
Title: The Secrets We Kept; Author: Lara Prescott; Genre: Spy fiction, Literary fiction, Espionage mysteries, historical fiction; Published: 3 September 2019; Publisher: Penguin Random House; Page Count: 456; Buy: takealot or loot or amazon
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