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Oct 7, 2019

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
Knopf Publishing, September 3 2019
Historical Russian Fiction
Personal purchase

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 Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott was not an easy to get swallowed up in type of read. We selected it for book club and pretty quickly it was obvious that there were some of us who were just not going to finish it, let alone even try. But a few of us stuck with it and were better for it. I didn't have any idea the significance of Doctor Zhivago before reading this story, never mind ever having the desire to read it or even watch the movie. But now I am slightly more interested. “This book will take us down a spiral from which there will be no return.”

The novel is told from many different viewpoints which becomes a stumbling block for some readers. For me, it meant that it was more of a story within a story within a story within a story. And I do have to say that the story between Russian author Pasternak and mistress Olga was my favorite. There were other storylines narrated by typists of the CIA "Sometimes they’d refer to us not by name but by hair color or body type: Blondie, Red, Tits. We had our secret names for them, too: Grabber, Coffee Breath, Teeth." (and yes, that was the narrator in plural) and another narrator from Irina and Sally and a certain little thrown in twist "Unlike some of the men, we could keep our secrets" that really is a sort of make-it or break-it plot point, but Olga's story is the most heart wrenching: “Don’t you realize?” I cried, ripping the pages up and tossing them into the bin. “It’s a loaded pistol. You’re the one who bought the bullets. You placed him above our family.”

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads. It was Reese's book club pick for September 2019, Amazon Best Book for September 2019 and I am so glad I was able to see the heart in this story and keep going. Just have to kinda feel bad for those that marked it DNF. 

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