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Book Review: The Secrets We Kept

September 12, 2019

Another week, another book recommended by the fabulous Reese Witherspoon! And all I can say is she crushed it! Another excellent recommendation!

 

If you need a refresher on why I do a weekly book review, check it out here!

 

So, with no more ado, here's my review of The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott!

 The Secrets We Kept follows three different women, Sally, Irina, and Olga, in the 1950's. With word of the novel Dr. Zhivago spreading in Russia, Olga, the mistress of Boris Pasternak, is taken for questioning and sentenced to a work camp for rehabilitation. In the US, Irina interviews for a typist job at the Agency, and despite not being the quickest typist is hired after its heard her father was killed in Russia. 

 

Irina is soon taken to be trained as a Carrier, someone who is trained to carry top secret messages. She begins her training with Teddy, but it's soon taken over by Sally.

 

Back in Russia, Olga is soon released after Stalin's death. But Boris and her have drifted apart in the three years she's been gone. It doesn't take long for the relationship to rekindle. And for Boris to decide Dr. Zhivago needs to be published. 

 

Sally, an old-timer, at the Agency, soon teaches Irina everything she knows. When it's heard that the Italians have an Italian copy of Zhivago, she travels to Italy to procure a copy. The translation begins, but the Agency still wants the Russian translation. Teddy, now Irina's fiance, travels to London to get the Russian copy of the novel. 

 

Soon, Irina begins smuggling in copies of Dr. Zhivago in the hopes it will raise Anti-Soviet feelings in Russia. But, when her mother dies, she realizes she has feelings for Sally and calls off her engagement.

 

But, Sally is soon fired from the Agency when rumors begin to circulate about her and Irina. She leaves, determined to track down the mole in the Agency. 

 

Now that Dr. Zhivago is being published everywhere, Boris wins the Nobel Prize. Olga urges him to turn it down, knowing it will put them in danger. He turns it down, but they still manage to smuggle his royalties into Russia. Boris's health soon deteriorates, and he passes away. Soon after, Olga and her daughter are accused of taking foreign money, and sentenced to the work camps again. 

 

The novel concludes with the typists reading an article about a woman arrested in London for espionage, where she lived with another unnamed woman. 

 

I loved every second of The Secrets We Kept! I love novels based on real people! I had no idea these women existed, and the part they played in getting a brilliant novel exposed to the world. Prescott does a brilliant job of getting the reader to root for each woman. She fully develops each character, giving them each space to flourish within the confines of the novel. I personally found Olga the most interesting. Her relationship with Boris was fascinating to me!

 

I found the dialogue, and the settings very compelling. I spend tons of time in DC, so getting to experience DC all over again in a book was fun for me! I could picture the places she talked about so clearly that it really helped ground the novel for me. There was not a ton of dialogue in this novel, so when there finally was some, you knew it was important. I almost wish there had been a little more dialogue, and a little less of Prescott just telling us what had happened. I think that would have added a little more immediacy to the novel, and helped flush out some of the characters and action a little more.

 

One thing I didn't like about this novel was the huge cast of characters we're introduced to. Besides chapters from Sally, Irina, and Olga's points-of-views, we also get random chapters from other characters. While they do fill some gaps in the action, it became really hard to figure out who's POV it was. I wish she would have put the character's names at the start of the chapter so you knew who it was when starting the chapter.

 

All in all, I give The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott a 4 out of 5! I found the novel fascinating, I just wish the chapter's POVs would have been clearer. 

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