My Review: 3.5 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: The Secrets We Kept: A Novel
Author: Lara Prescott
Published: 2019 (Alfred A. Knopf, New York)
Pages: 349 (Hardcover)
Genres: Historical Fiction, Cold War, Romance, Thriller, Spies
Hello! I hope everyone is staying healthy, safe and calm during this crazy time. I’m currently mourning that our grocery stores are continuously out of pasta (one of my favorite foods), because everyone is preparing for the apocalypse, apparently…
But practicing social distancing provides a great opportunity to catch up on reading. My review this week is about the novel, The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott. I was interested in this book for awhile, and recently received a chance to borrow it from a friend. When I first found this book online, I was instantly intrigued by the synopsis. But, there was a wait-list for this book at the library (over 30 people waiting for this book!). The Secrets We Kept is a Cold War-era thriller surrounding several characters in ‘The East’ (Russia) and ‘The West’ (United States) connected by one real-life book, Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, who is also a character in this novel. In my opinion this novel can be read without previously reading or having any knowledge of Doctor Zhivago.
“Only privileged men romanticize tragedy” – Lara Prescott, The Secrets We Kept
Some of the characters in this novel are typists at the CIA, so I thought it appropriate to take a picture of this book next to my keyboard at work (see pictured above), where I spend almost every day of the week typing away emails and other communication on. Certainly I do not work for the CIA (that you all know of…), but the endless ground work of typing day after day may only be interesting because of what or why I’m typing. That is what makes these women in the novel turn an ordinary profession into an extraordinary one. They are side characters and treated as such, but they saw everything that was going on inside the CIA and supported the narrative of the novel through their observations.
“We unveil ourselves in the pieces we want others to know, even those closest to us. We all have our secrets” – Lara Prescott, The Secrets We Kept
I also found this novel exciting to read due to the noted differences between oppression in Russia and the United States at the time. Of course, the oppression of the Soviet Union rang true in dramatizing the author Boris Pasternak and his mistress, Olga’s tumultuous lives as they were imprisoned, questioned and spied on due to Boris’ writing. But the sexism and oppression of women in the United States ruled the lives of the female characters in this novel as well, even if they had ‘freedom’. In Russia, the women seemed to have more power in their roles, they could maintain a household, have a career and their opinions were respected… Even if they weren’t always included. While in the United States, even though the idea of democracy rang truer than in Russia, women were not always given credit for their work, their career choices were extremely limited, and they were expected to fall into a certain role for a man.
“This book will take us down a spiral from which there will be no return” – Lara Prescott, The Secrets We Kept
The strong female characters and their dilemmas on both continents made this novel compelling, and it was thrilling from start to finish. The novel jumped around to different characters during different periods sporadically, but the story connected and flowed to form a wonderfully told spy thriller based upon true life events surrounding the publication of Doctor Zhivago. I enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a well-written Cold War-era historical fiction spy novel that appropriately portrays female protagonists.
I give this book a 3.5 out of 5!