The Secrets We Kept

The Secrets We Kept

A Novel

Book - 2019
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A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice--the real-life 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 dares 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, DC, 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 centre of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.
Publisher: [Toronto] : Bond Street Books, Doubleday Canada, ©2019.
ISBN: 9780385693264
Characteristics: xii, 396 pages ;,25 cm.


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Jan 27, 2020

Great read. Pasternak' novel smuggled.

Jan 06, 2020

Just picked this book up as I passed by the shelf. I've been reading novels about women and war recently. Enjoyed it much more than I'd expected. There is a note of claustrophobia surrounding the typing pool, but maybe that's how the spy game goes. I think this is a good, well-written story with just the right historical overtones. After reading this book, I immediately "googled" Boris Pasternak for more info on the publication of "Dr. Zhivago". In 1967, my senior of high school, I read Dr. Z and was not impressed. How very fascinating to learn, a few years later, of the efforts made to publish it, less than 10 year before I'd make my book report. Anyway, this book, The Secrets We Keep, I would recommend for it's history, characters, humanity, and cohesive writing. Try it.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Dec 30, 2019

An espionage tale overlapping with the origin story of Doctor Zhivago. Fascinating.

Dec 15, 2019

Pretty good.... I had hoped it would have been a bit more thrilling, focusing mostly on intel missions and the way they weave that with their personal lives. It was much more slow moving, not very much action. Enjoyable enough.

JCLKariE Nov 26, 2019

This meticulously researched, superb historical fiction captivates from start the finish. The various points of view make this story come alive. We follow the girls in the CIA's typing pool, including the new Russian girl, Irina, and the obviously-not-just-a-receptionist, Sally. During the Cold War, the CIA uses popular literature to change the hearts of minds of those stuck behind the Iron Curtain.
After hearing rumors of Dr. Zhivago, the Agency obtains copies of the novel and distributes it in Russia. The hows of why of this distribution were thoroughly engaging. The women behind the scenes were essential to all operations; but were relegated to making coffee, typing up the notes and forgetting what they read. Two new girls to the typing pool get additional assignments which require them to play the part of letter carrier and seductress to get what the Agency needs.
The Eastern section of the novel follows Olga, the muse for Lara, and Boris Pasternak, the great Russian poet and author. Olga survives the gulag, helps Boris finish Zhivago, and tries to smooth their way through Soviet censorship. The back-and-forth of the East and West sections keep you on the edge of your seat. Now I'm off to watch Dr. Zhivago again!

Nov 25, 2019

'The Secrets We Kept' is a Cold War CIA story about Boris Pasternak's 'Dr. Zhivago' publication told mostly through the eyes of his muse and lover Olga and several women in the CIA typing pool, with their eyes on bigger roles in that world.

Lara Prescott’s debut novel, made popular by Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club, is page-turning historical fiction. Plenty of secrets and lies that keep you guessing. And, history I didn’t know in this detail.

Nov 23, 2019

The Zhivago Affair is much more interesting than this tedious novel.

Nov 05, 2019

I would rather read the actual story than this disjointed fiction. There are some story lines that could completely be eliminated and not make any difference to the main subject matter. I did find it interesting that back then we were looking for ways to use Russian literature to turn citizens against the Soviet regime and promote the West- sound familiar at all? Pasternak was a talented writer but a pig to his mistress and his wife, why his mistress went to the Gulag TWICE for him was mind blowing for me.
I say, read Dr. Zhivago and see the movie, you won't be disappointed.

Aug 24, 2019

I confess: I have never read "Dr. Zhivago" and I have never seen the movie. I know! Where have I been? After reading the summary for this book I immediately requested it as a digital ARC on NetGalley and then was happily surprised to see an article in BOOKPAGE just before I began reading. Now I am done reading and I am not as thrilled with the book as many others have been. It is a fascinating tale and I do believe that Prescott did an admirable job in her research. The narrative is split between the East and the West. In the East storyline we see the story of Boris Pasternak and his mistress Olya as the communist authorities do their best to prevent publication of a work they deemed subversive. Meanwhile, there are spy rings based in the West doing their best to get this hot new bestseller into the hands of as many Soviet citizens as possible. Our view of that work is from the typist pool where women learn early to keep and sometimes help spread the secrets of the Cold War.
For me the East side of the story was the easiest POV to understand and evoked the most empathy. The West was split between three voices and was a bit difficult to follow. What I took away was the despair many in our espionage feel at the end of the day despite their accomplishments. It appears that they find as many or more regrets. Basically, the CIA should not try to use this book as a recruitment tool!

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