Thursday, December 12, 2019

Julie's Review: The Secrets We Kept

Author: Lara Prescott
Series: None
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 368
Obtained: library
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: Interesting story about how Doctor Zhivago got published
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library

Summary: 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.

Review: I do love a great spy novel, movie or tv show, so when this was picked as a Reese's Book Club for September, I put it on my library hold list. I will confess before I go any further that I haven't read Doctor Zhivago or seen the film adaptation and while my interest is peaked, I'm not sure I really want to try my hand at Russian Literature. I also had no clue what a game it was in espionage to get a copy of Doctor Zhivago.

The Secrets We Kept is told from various female viewpoints: Irina, Sally, Olga and then the common voice of the typists. Each point of view gives us a different way of looking at the story that is unfolding and as we all know there are many ways one can discern a story. This is a female centric novel that is all about their contributions to spying even if they aren't fully recognized by their male peers. It is about female friendship and female workplace competition, surviving in a man's world and chosing to be yourself when it isn't a societal norm.

Olga has to chose between her family, her lover and her freedom for most of the novel. She is Boris' biggest advocate along with being his lover and both put her in harms way more than one time. She even spends 18 months in the Gulag because of her association with him. She is his muse but you wonder many times throughout the book if it's really worth it for her.

We then have the tandem of Sally and Irina. Sally is the well trained, senior CIA agent who is instructed to take Irina under her wing to guide her in being an agent.

This book is really about female power in all ways and about we have always played a key in historical events even if we are in the background.


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