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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Review: The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

The Secrets We Kept 
by Lara Prescott 

Thanks so much to Astoria Bookshop for this copy - this is also Reese's Bookclub choice and it's fantastic everyone!

Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Publish Date: September 3, 2019
349 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

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.

My Review:

I know.  I know.  I'm supposed to love this book more than I do.  I've heard nothing but great things and have seen praises about this everywhere.  It's even a Reese's Book Club selection and Book Expo Book Pick.  The thing is, historical fiction is either a huge hit or a complete miss for me.  This one kind of fell in the middle.

I loved the way the chapter headings made it easy to follow whose POV we were now seeing.  The story of the typists, spies and the true story of Doctor Zhivago and how this banned book made it into the world is fascinating on their own.  However, there is an abundant amount of characters and while the romances were interesting enough... all of these things together felt a bit disjointed and my interest started to fade very quickly after the first 100 pages.

It could also be that *this* type of history, while I realize is pivotal in its own way as most historical events are, isn't particular to my taste of interest.  I have no desire to read Doctor Zhivago.  I think I expected a book about spies to contain more mystery and intrigue and less love story.  Instead, it fell flat, was a bit repetitive in nature and would've read better had the focus been more centered rather than all over the place.


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