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The Secrets We Kept

A novel

by Lara Prescott

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott X
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
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  • Published:
    Sep 2019, 368 pages


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Celia K Phillips

Doctor Zhivago Patrons Revealed
The story of how Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak came to be published.

The book, written in Russia, could not be published there. It was banned in the Eastern Bloc due to its critiques of the October Revolution and its so-called subversive nature. But somehow it was spirited out of Russia to Italy, where it was first published. Eventually a copy came to the United States where it was published as well.

And who did this 'spiriting? Women posing as secretaries!! And so appropriate because:

"Secretary: a person entrusted with a secret. From the Latin secretus, secretum. We all typed, but some of us did more. We spoke no word of the work we did after we covered our typewriters each day. Unlike some of the men, we could keep our secrets."

Historically accurate to a large extent, I learned that:
-Pasternak had a mistress, Olga, the real life model for Lara of the novel
-The novel was first published in Italy. At the instigation of Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the manuscript was smuggled to Milan and published in 1957.
-The CIA was instrumental in getting the book out of Russia to be published in the US
-The secretaries had different roles:
Carrier - “If you ask me, women are well suited to be Carriers,” he said. “No one suspects that the pretty girl on the bus is delivering secrets.”
Sparrow - "A female agent employed to seduce people for intelligence purposes"

There are 28 Chapters in this book and each is titled with a description of the character who is featured in that chapter: Olga is first 'The Muse", and progresses through The Rehabilitated Woman, The Emmisary, The Mother, The Postmistress, and The Almost Widow. Each new chapter for that character has previous roles crossed out with the latest description at the bottom.
Chapter 28 about Olga looks like this
CHAPTER 28 The Muse The Rehabilitated Woman The Emissary The Mother The Emissary The Postmistress THE ALMOST WIDOW. In the book, all but the last role are crossed out. A very interesting treatment to allow the reader to follow the character seamlessly through the book.

A very good historical fiction. and a perfect fit for Prescott. Her mother was a big fan of the movie version of Doctor Zhivago. Note that she named her daughter after the heroine.

Intrigue Behind Doctor Zhivago
Now a Reese's Book Club pick! Happy to see that this Cold War thriller with literature at its heart is generating so much interest. I had no idea of the controversy surrounding Pasternak's novel, the pain and heartbreak of those close to Pasternak - caused by the writing and publication of Doctor Zhivago, and how the CIA saw the book as a tool to use in their fight against communism. The reader will enjoy how Prescott weaves the two threads (East vs West) together as the story unfolds. Love the movie version and now can't wait to move on to the original.
Power Reviewer
Dorothy L. (Manalapan, NJ)

The Secrets We Kept Keeps You Reading
I found this an unusual and interesting read. I remembered bits and pieces of the Dr. Zhivago story but found the backstory fascinating. I particularly liked the story of the typists/spies. I liked the structure of East and West but found the points of view in certain chapters confusing. The Cold War period was evoked well, as well as the social mores of the time period. I don't think it is a book for everyone but I enjoyed it. I intend to see the movie again because I think my perspective will be different and it will be more meaningful the second time around.
Samantha H. (Golden, CO)

Well written, interesting story
"The Secrets We Kept" is a very enjoyable read. The characters are likable and well developed. There is a change of narrator with every chapter, so I had to pay close attention to the chapter headings to know who was speaking. (It took a little effort at first, but I soon fell into the rhythm). I was not familiar with the history of the novel "Doctor Zhivago," and found the tale fascinating. I highly recommend it. I think this novel would be a good candidate for book clubs -- it is certain to stimulate discussion.
Shawna (TX)

Original, Captivating Historical Fiction - Secretaries & Spies in the Cold War
Very interesting historical fiction novel set during the Cold War about the writing, publication, and distribution of Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Few novels are set in this time period and Prescott's detailed research provides for a rich narrative told through the eyes of three women in dual timelines. Book clubs will find much to discuss about the cold war, friendships, secrets, risk, and loyalty. A great book for those who enjoy historical fiction looking for something new and fresh.
Leah L. (Lawrence, NY)

An interesting slice of history
Two stories parallel and intersect one another is this novel about the behind-the-scenes of the epic book-turned-film Dr. Zhivago and the cadre of women in this country who were recruited to be spies. The author admirably works the threads together of different groups of people on different continents who really are only 2-3 degrees of separation from one another yet impact each other. This book is clearly a labor of love for Prescott.
Carol P. (Tuscaloosa, AL)

Sadly Disappointed
The premise of the plot of "The Secrets We Kept" was intriguing, but the writing and structure never delivered the punch I anticipated. Honestly, the characters (and there are many!) were never developed or nuanced to a degree that made me care what happened to them, one way or the other. The Cold War atmosphere was well portrayed. This will not be a book I recommend to people who are interested in literature or the Cold War or a compelling narrative.

Hard to FOllow characters and Plot
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Beyond the Book:
  Dr. Zhivago, the Movie

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