Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Secrets We Kept

The Secrets We Kept. Lara Prescott. 2019. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: We typed a hundred words per minute and never missed a syllable.

Premise/plot: This historical novel focuses around the publication and distribution of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Unable to find a publisher in the Soviet Union, he risked it all by allowing it to essentially be smuggled out of the country and published in Italy. Meanwhile in America, the C.I.A. was hard at work smuggling banned literature into the U.S.S.R. It seemed obvious to try to get their hands on the Russian manuscript or a copy. To produce a copy—in Russian—to smuggle into the U.S.S.R. would be just the thing.

While part of the novel is about Doctor Zhivago, much of the novel is about the women’s typing pool of the agency focusing on a handful of employees that have a second secret job in the agency. Irena and Sally are the two main characters.

The novel Doctor Zhivago features a “forbidden” love story between Zhivago and Lara. It is an adulterous affair. Likewise The Secrets We Kept features a “forbidden” love story between Sally and Irena. Set during a time when being outed could prove costly—loss of job, loss of reputation, loss of family and friends, etc., the novel captures the dangers and intensity of love.

My thoughts: This is the first book about the Lavender Scare that I’ve read. (Though I did see the recent PBS documentary last year on the subject.) I didn’t seek out the book because of this angle. In fact, there were no obvious clues in the jacket description that indicated exactly what the SECRET alluded to in the book title actually was. For better or worse. I think knowing ahead of time would probably bring in more readers. Perhaps.

I sought out the book solely because of my interest in history and literature. I have read and enjoyed Doctor Zhivago. I have an interest in Russian literature. It seemed like a good fit.

I felt like the description was a tiny bit misleading. I wanted more spies and suspense.

I would warn about the contents of this one. There is a graphically violent rape scene. Most adults should be able to handle it. I think it will make you rightfully angry. I found myself wanting to scream at the book.

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Lark said...

Sam over at bookchase.blogspot.com just read and reviewed this book. It's like a sign that I should read it, too. ;D

Laureen said...

Thank you for writing a review! As a big fan of everything that has to do with the russian writers of that period I am always looking for thrilling new novels:)