Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Book Review: The Secrets We Kept

I recently finished reading The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott.  After seeing this book listed as a Reese Witherspoon book club pick, I decided to give it a shot.  It was labeled a historical fiction novel told through the eyes of several different characters.  The setting was mostly Washington DC during the height of the Cold War.  That instantly sealed the deal.  The Cold War was new territory for me and I wanted to learn.  I immediately hit the "buy now" button on Amazon Prime and began reading.

The novel is titled The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott.
The book was read by Carlotta Brentan, Cynthia Farrell, Mozhan Marnò, 
Saskia Maarleveld, Jonathan Davis, David Pittu, and James Fouhey.
The unabridged version was 10 hours and 55 minutes long.

lara prescott; historical fiction; cold war novel; historical fiction book reviews

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Review:  The Secrets We Kept By Lara Prescott

The story begins in the typing pool of the CIA.  The secretaries were tasked with typing documents of highly confidential information.  They never spoke about it, but they knew many deep, dark secrets of the American government.  Two of those secretaries were pulled from the typing pool and turned into spies.  Their mission was to get a Russia novel, Doctor Zhivago, into Russian and have it read by the people.  This love story was being used by the CIA as a weapon during the height of the Cold War.

There was several main characters in this book.  The number of characters introduced was a bit overwhelming.  Out of all of them, there were three characters that stood out the most to me.  They are Irina, Sally, and Olga.  To be completely honest, if the author focused on just Olga's story, it would have been a MUCH better book.  The other characters were merely supporting roles, but they had full chapters written in their perspective nonetheless.  I felt like this was unnecessary to the story and a bit confusing.

Irina was a young Russian immigrant who was trying to make a life for herself in Washington DC.  She was unsure about a career, her lifestyle, and even her sexuality.  Despite having everything that the typical woman would have wanted, she remained unsettled.  Her story started out as intriguing, then got a tad ridiculous, and then abruptly ended with no real resolve for the reader.  She may have been the biggest disappointment in the novel, but the voice actor was the most fabulous of all the narrators!  Irina gets a small shout out in the epilogue, but even that just left the reader with a bigger black hole of questions.

Sally was an experienced spy that felt too old and washed out for the business.  Despite this realization, she got recruited by the CIA for another mission.  As quickly as this job came, it was swept out from under her due to unfair consequences to her alleged sexuality.  As often as this character was mentioned, she really didn't play a significant role in the novel.  Her true purpose to the story line is unclear.  While I may want to be her BFF in real life, the book could have done without her.

Olga was the character of interest.  She was the mistress of a Russian author named Pasternak.  She also existed in real life.  This part of the book was based on a true story.  This wasn't an ordinary affair.  The two were madly in love and would remain together until the author's dying day.  The price Olga had to pay for this relationship was almost unbearable to read.  She was arrested and served extended time in a concentration camp twice.  She suffered a miscarriage.  She neglected her children.  She basically lived to be with Pasternak.  She was also Pasternak's muse for the main character of his novel, Lara.  To finish out Olga's story was the only thing that kept me going to the novel's end.

While I didn't hate this novel, I didn't exactly love it either.  I average about a book a month.  This book took me six months to finish.  & that was during a pandemic, quarantine and all!  I finished the novel feeling like I learned nothing.  Other than now knowing how the CIA used Russian literature as a weapon, I still know nothing about the Cold War.  Although, it did motivate to start reading the novel Doctor Zhivago.

I would not recommend The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott.

Unless you're looking for a mediocre story about a dozen random people that know of each other, I wouldn't recommend it as historical fiction.

Have you read The Secrets We Kept?


  1. I don't do Cold War but this does sound juicy. I do ever so love me Doctor Zhivago! Wish we would get a new TV series on it as we were promised last year.

    1. I don’t know the story of Dr. Zhivago, although after this book, I’m intrigued to read it. The author of this book is named after Lara from Dr. Zhivago which is what prompted her to write this story.

    2. I don't think you will personally like Zhivago, but you may try :) My favourite or Russian epic novels is probably Gogol's Taras Bulba. I also love Pushkin's stories and fairy tales. I can also recite about ten Russian poems by heart and sing about five of their old songs LOL

  2. I think I may have been drawn to the fact that it’s Cold War related because I’m tired of WW2 novels. Lol, your last sentence cracks me up, so no,I won’t be reading it. I just finished Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and loved it.

    1. Lol, well, I have to be honest!! Ohh, I’m off to google to look that one up. I’m always game for a good read.

  3. Ooof. Sounds like I book I definitely need to skip on. Like Oprah, it seems Reese can be hit or miss with her book picks. I hate it when a book takes way longer than anticipated to finish because I have to force myself to read it.

    1. That's exactly what happened.. I kept getting new books to try to encourage me to finish this one, but that didn't even help!


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