The Secrets We Kept
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.

The Secrets We Kept Details

TitleThe Secrets We Kept
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 17th, 2019
PublisherKnopf
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Cultural, Russia, Thriller

The Secrets We Kept Review

  • Maureen
    January 1, 1970
    Lara Prescott weaves a fascinating tale of espionage during the Cold War using Boris Pasternak’s book Dr Zhivago as the basis for her debut thriller. Dr Zhivago is a book that was banned in Pasternak’s homeland - the Soviet Union. People are willing to die for this book, but on the other side of the coin there are agents prepared to kill for it too!Set both in the East and the West, our two main protagonists Sally Forrester and Irina Drozdov work in the CIA typing pool, a very male dominated env Lara Prescott weaves a fascinating tale of espionage during the Cold War using Boris Pasternak’s book Dr Zhivago as the basis for her debut thriller. Dr Zhivago is a book that was banned in Pasternak’s homeland - the Soviet Union. People are willing to die for this book, but on the other side of the coin there are agents prepared to kill for it too!Set both in the East and the West, our two main protagonists Sally Forrester and Irina Drozdov work in the CIA typing pool, a very male dominated environment of former OSS operatives, (and indeed the typists were OSS operatives too, all heroines in their own right’). However, our two protagonists are not merely typists, they’re also spies!A smuggled copy of Pasternak’s novel finds it’s way to the West, and the CIA use this to their political advantage by sending reprints back to Russia, to manipulate public opinion, and turn the Cold War in their favour.The author has captured the Cold War era in the West perfectly by means of the lifestyle of her characters, and also the political and sexual attitudes in the workplace, most of which would be frowned upon today. In the East, we get more than a sense of how married Pasternak maintains a relationship of many years with his muse/lover Olga Ivinskaya, a woman who spent three years in a labor camp because of her association with him, and it captures so well the fear of being watched constantly by the State, and the dread that one day a government black car will turn up and they will never be seen again.This is a compelling account of the suppression, publication and distribution of Dr Zhivago and all the controversy surrounding it, and it was such a pleasure to read. I expect it will be a great hit!*Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone for my ARC. I have given an honest unbiased review in exchange *
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  • Dorie - Traveling Sister :)
    January 1, 1970
    ***NOW AVAILABLE***I am going to change my rating on this book to a 3.5 rounded up to a 4 star book. I love books about spies, particularly women spies so I had really high expectations for this book. I had some problems with the flow, back and forth between what was happening with the author of Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, in the East and what was going on in the West, centering on the CIA and how it planned to use the book as a “weapon” against the Soviets. All in all I enjoyed this book, it ***NOW AVAILABLE***I am going to change my rating on this book to a 3.5 rounded up to a 4 star book. I love books about spies, particularly women spies so I had really high expectations for this book. I had some problems with the flow, back and forth between what was happening with the author of Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, in the East and what was going on in the West, centering on the CIA and how it planned to use the book as a “weapon” against the Soviets. All in all I enjoyed this book, it just took me a while to get through it. The novel starts during the time of the Cold War, four years after the end of WWII. Boris Pasternak was a renowned writer in Russia, short stories and poetry, and was well loved by the Russian government and the general population, that is until Russia became the USSR under Lenin and then Stalin. Boris saw many of his fellow artists, writers, musicians, painters, being taken away to labor camps or met with an even worse fate. Stalin tolerated Boris and he was allowed to live in a beautiful country home as well as his apartment in Moscow. At the point when we enter the story, Boris is working on what he hopes will be his masterpiece. He is writing a novel about the way Russia used to be before communism and the truth about the revolution. It will tell of the opportunities and freedom that are no longer a part of life under communism. His lover and muse, Olga, will figure prominently in the book.When the West gets wind of the novel they immediately start to set in motion plans to smuggle the novel out of the USSR, translate it for distribution in other countries and then ultimately smuggle the finished copies back into the hands of the people of Russia. The novel was banned from publication and distribution in Russia. One of my favorite quotes “Teddy rose to get another drink, returning with two martinis, an extra olive in his. “A toast?” Henry asked, to what?” “The book, of course. May our literary weapon of mass destruction make the monster squeal.”The sections on the typing pool in the West, comprised of well educated women, some who had completed covert operations during the war interesting and upsetting. Now these women are relegated to typing the notes of the men in charge of operations with no input into what goes on! One woman, Irina, is singled out as being useful for the tasks associated with smuggling the novel out of Russia. She was brought up speaking the language fluently as her mother was Russian. She is taught at length about covert operations first by her boss Teddy and then later by another agent, Sally, with whom there is an immediate connection. The sections on the East deal not only with Boris but with Olga who suffered the fate of 3 years in a labor camp for her association with Pasternak. Boris has a wife and two children but we don’t really get to know much about her except that she allowed Boris to keep his mistress as long as he spent his “writing” time at the country house with her.There is romance and love, family and commitments involving the characters in the US and in the East. There are also strong opinions on loyalty to one’s government but even more so, to the rights of an individual to speak, write and read whatever they want. Reminding me once again how fortunate I am to live in a free country.I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley.Publication date is set for September 3, 2019.
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  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    Taking place during the pinnacle of the Cold War, accomplished and well educated women were relegated to the typing pool at the CIA by the old boy network while their male counterparts began careers. Two unique women whom excel at keeping secrets become spies tasked with obtaining the manuscript of Dr. Zhivago for publication in the west since the Soviet State finds the content offensive and will not publish. Moving between the east and the west there are two love stories, dangerous missions and Taking place during the pinnacle of the Cold War, accomplished and well educated women were relegated to the typing pool at the CIA by the old boy network while their male counterparts began careers. Two unique women whom excel at keeping secrets become spies tasked with obtaining the manuscript of Dr. Zhivago for publication in the west since the Soviet State finds the content offensive and will not publish. Moving between the east and the west there are two love stories, dangerous missions and much soul searching. Exciting doesn’t begin to describe this meticulously researched and dramatic journey. I am astonished that a book this remarkable is a debut. Without a doubt it will be a best selling blockbuster. Prescott has quite a career ahead of her.
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  • Chaima ✨ شيماء
    January 1, 1970
    the amount of books I want to read disproportionately outweighs the available space I have for books AND the amount of money I have in my bank account 😩
  • Cheri
    January 1, 1970
    ”Sometimes they’d refer to us not by name but by hair color or body type: Blondie, Red, Tits. We had our secret names for them, too: Grabber, Coffee Breath, Teeth.“They would call us girls, but we were not.“We came to the Agency by way of Radcliffe, Vassar, Smith. We were the first daughters of our families to earn degrees. Some of us spoke Mandarin. Some could fly plans. Some of us could handle a Colt 1873 better than John Wayne. But all we were asked when interviewed was ‘Can you type?’” This ”Sometimes they’d refer to us not by name but by hair color or body type: Blondie, Red, Tits. We had our secret names for them, too: Grabber, Coffee Breath, Teeth.“They would call us girls, but we were not.“We came to the Agency by way of Radcliffe, Vassar, Smith. We were the first daughters of our families to earn degrees. Some of us spoke Mandarin. Some could fly plans. Some of us could handle a Colt 1873 better than John Wayne. But all we were asked when interviewed was ‘Can you type?’” This begins four years after the end of World War II, and among these women were “leftovers” from the OSS, women who had been legends for their heroic and dangerous work during the war were also just women, after all, and were reduced to typing with the rest of the typing pool. Still, one or two of these women seem to work their way into proving their worth to the agency, outside of typing, and soon they are tested to see how well they can keep secrets, and follow instructions, and they end up being spies for the agency. Eventually, the task that is revealed involves finding and acquiring the manuscript for Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, in order to make copies to be distributed to Russian readers, who will be attending an event on US soil, and will return with these books in hand to share. Since the novel was banned in Russia for its revolutionary, subversive content, they are hoping to sway the Russian people through the beauty and power of the compelling nature of this Nobel Prize winning literary legend. And, as with Dr. Zhivago, there is a love story or two, but there is also a focus on loyalty and love, love in its many forms from romantic to familial, sacrifice and the cost of sacrifice over time to all involved. Perhaps what stood out the most to me was the emotional toll it took for these women to live in the shadows of these men, and in the shadows as spies, or seditious - and never to be thought worthy of voicing their opinion or objection to a course of action set by men.This is one of those rare books, a historic and finely-crafted page-turner about the power of the written word that will leave you contemplating such topics as equality, sexuality, censorship, the freedom of the press and how books have the power to change lives – all topics that are still as relevant, if not more, today. This is certainly destined to be a best seller. Many thanks for the ARC provided by my Book Angel!
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  • Kate Quinn
    January 1, 1970
    Got a chance to read this one for a cover quote, and I will definitely be offering one. It's terrific!
  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    Much has been said about this book, it has been ‘hyped’ ( not a great word but its as it is ) and spoken about as ‘THE book of the year’ and various other platitudesThe book is all about ( trying to keep this as simple as can ) Doctor Zhivago, the author of it, his lover, how the book was banned and how America managed to get the book published and into Russia ( all based on fact ) intermingled with fiction re the ‘spies’ of the 1950’s, the ‘typists’ of the American Govt, who saw all and said no Much has been said about this book, it has been ‘hyped’ ( not a great word but its as it is ) and spoken about as ‘THE book of the year’ and various other platitudesThe book is all about ( trying to keep this as simple as can ) Doctor Zhivago, the author of it, his lover, how the book was banned and how America managed to get the book published and into Russia ( all based on fact ) intermingled with fiction re the ‘spies’ of the 1950’s, the ‘typists’ of the American Govt, who saw all and said nothing and a forbidden love affair between a typist and a spyThat is the easiest way to explain it, the reality of the book is more complexIt was fascinating to read the ‘typists’ take on working for the ‘spies’ and I enjoyed that part of the book the most, the flowery romanticism of the author and his lover left me cold at times if I’m honest and the story of ‘forbidden love’ although poignant was over before it really began and no one really enjoys chapters of a forsaken lover nattering on about lost love, do they??The part at the World Fair where the ‘spies’ distribute copies of the book to Russians was well done and you felt the urgency of the taskThe ‘typists’ characters were great, the rest ‘ok’ and didn’t really raise an emotion either way Quite a bit of repeated story that ‘filled out the book’I am sure many will love this book but it sets its stall out very high with its own praise ahead of publication and will be interesting to see how it is received 6/10 3 Stars
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  • Literary Soirée
    January 1, 1970
    NOT WW II — WHEW!I first saw this book, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, on NetGalley and knew I had to read it. What a joy to find glorious historical fiction not set during WW II. COLD WAR THRILLERPrescott’s debut novel occurs during the Cold War, with chapters that flip between the CIA in the States and Russia — where Boris Pasternak (author of DR. ZHIVAGO) and lover Olga (inspiration for the character Lara), struggle to get his masterpiece published. MAGNIFICENTNYT critic Janet Maslin cal NOT WW II — WHEW!I first saw this book, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, on NetGalley and knew I had to read it. What a joy to find glorious historical fiction not set during WW II. COLD WAR THRILLERPrescott’s debut novel occurs during the Cold War, with chapters that flip between the CIA in the States and Russia — where Boris Pasternak (author of DR. ZHIVAGO) and lover Olga (inspiration for the character Lara), struggle to get his masterpiece published. MAGNIFICENTNYT critic Janet Maslin calls THE SECRETS WE KEPT “above average.” I found it magnificent, and I am not alone as it sold to Knopf for $2 million at auction. I tore through the pages, lost in the world of spies and counterspies and the CIA’s efforts to smuggle Pasternak’s opus, finally published in the West, back into Russia as a propaganda tool. CIA ALIVEPrescott does a splendid job of creating the life of the all female CIA typing pool, from which a young Russian America woman is plucked for espionage work, first trained by a young man she becomes engaged to, then by a gorgeous experienced female spy she falls in love with. We see the rampant anti-LGBTQ prejudice that ruined careers and lives, and the toxic sexism of the mid-century, which sent former female OSS stars to die professionally as typists. PATH TO SUCCESSThe author’s own path to literary success is as thrilling as the plot. She was turned down initially by grad schools, then after accepted into Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas was told by a literary agent that Russia was no longer of interest to readers. SUPERSTARInitially deflated she kept on writing, leading to the $2 million auction, novel rights sold in 30 countries, and a major movie sale option. IMPATIENT WAITAs Churchill said, “Never give in — never, never, never, never.” Thank God Lara Prescott did not. I can’t praise her debut enough and am counting the hours ‘til her next offering.
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    There’s no secret that the Secrets We Kept is going to be a big hit this fall. It’s one of those books that I imagine publishers dream about – filled with true-to-life intrigue, touching upon little-known history, and presenting real-life and fictional characters that readers really care about.Like most people, I’ve seen the movie Dr. Zhivago multiple times and it has never failed to captivate me (interestingly, I minored in Russian literature but never read the book). Although I was aware that There’s no secret that the Secrets We Kept is going to be a big hit this fall. It’s one of those books that I imagine publishers dream about – filled with true-to-life intrigue, touching upon little-known history, and presenting real-life and fictional characters that readers really care about.Like most people, I’ve seen the movie Dr. Zhivago multiple times and it has never failed to captivate me (interestingly, I minored in Russian literature but never read the book). Although I was aware that the CIA has psych-ops units designed to change hearts and minds, I had no idea that this beloved classic was jokingly referred to as a “literary weapon of mass destruction.” Nor was I aware of the back story of its publication.This book alternates between the East and the West. In the East – the Soviet Union – we meet famed author Boris Pasternak, his lover and muse Olga (who was the inspiration for Lara), and his compulsion to write a masterpiece that would capture the truth about the revolution and stand the test of time. In the West, we meet the “girls” of the CIA typing pool, the secret-keepers, and the “swallows” – those who ascend to actual secretive work. The two focal points of this sorority-of-sorts are Irena and her mentor, Sally, who are unconventional and free-spirited yet tied down by the milieu which they must inhabit.Typically, when a novel shifts from one story to the other, one of the two threads fades by comparison. But here, both stories are strong. There are fascinating insights into the CIA machinations of the ‘50s and the way women were treated. And there are also great revelations about Boris Pasternak’s life and his struggle to follow his literary muse even when it is in conflict with what his beloved land deems “correct.” It’s a book I can confidently recommend to just about anyone – those who love NYT “Top Ten” books, literary readers, and readers who veer toward well-researched historical books. It’s a winner, through and through.
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  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    They had their satellites, but we had their books. Back then, we believed books could be weapons - that literature could change the course of history. This is a fictionalised telling of a fascinating true story that pitched the CIA in a battle against the Soviet authorities over Pasternak's Dr Zhivago. Sadly, as I'd read some of the same sources as the author (The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book, 'The Pasternak Affair', Anna Pasternak's Lara: The Untol They had their satellites, but we had their books. Back then, we believed books could be weapons - that literature could change the course of history. This is a fictionalised telling of a fascinating true story that pitched the CIA in a battle against the Soviet authorities over Pasternak's Dr Zhivago. Sadly, as I'd read some of the same sources as the author (The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book, 'The Pasternak Affair', Anna Pasternak's Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago about Olga Ivinskaya) there was little new here and the fiction is inevitably less detailed, precise and specific than the original sources. What Prescott adds is a picture of the women who worked for the CIA in its early post-war days: they're mostly in the typing pool and speak with a collective voice ('we' - ironically, as they're representing the individualist west against the collective eastern bloc...) though some get selected for more dangerous, special work. If you don't know about this episode of cultural wars, when the CIA's dodgy dealings were arguably more benign than they later became, this would be a very good introduction to 'the Zhivago affair'. Thanks to Random House/Cornerstone for an ARC via NetGalley.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    This is a well written, fictional account of the way a novel, “Dr Zhivago,” became a political bombshell; used by the West as a propaganda tool. The novel begins with the arrest of Boris Pasternak’s pregnant mistress, his muse and the inspiration for Lara, Olga Ivinskaya. As Pasternak, against threats and fears of retribution, continues work on what will become his masterpiece, the West are interested in rumours of this book.To my mind, the parts of the novel which worked best, were the scenes f This is a well written, fictional account of the way a novel, “Dr Zhivago,” became a political bombshell; used by the West as a propaganda tool. The novel begins with the arrest of Boris Pasternak’s pregnant mistress, his muse and the inspiration for Lara, Olga Ivinskaya. As Pasternak, against threats and fears of retribution, continues work on what will become his masterpiece, the West are interested in rumours of this book.To my mind, the parts of the novel which worked best, were the scenes featuring the typists, who worked for the CIA in the Soviet Russia Division in Washington. Many were women who had worked as agents in WWII and had returned to America, to find that their roles have been diminished. Others have completed university to find that a rather menial job as a typist, is all they can find. However, there are those who are approached to do more than just type and these secret lives, within the rather mundane setting of a typing pool, appealed to me.I have not read about these events before and, as such, found the book interesting and would now like to read a non-fiction account, such as, “The Zhivago Affair,” by Peter Finn. However, this is a fascinating introduction to the battle over, “Dr Zhivago.” I received a copy of this book from the publishers, via NetGalley, for review.
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  • switterbug (Betsey)
    January 1, 1970
    I predict that Lara Prescott’s debut novel will be a smash hit. From the first sentence, at “The Agency” in D.C. in the 1950s, with the clack of the typewriter keys, the typing pool women engage us. The Agency goals are to spin subversive words into gold to spread democratic ideals. That is where the role of Dr. Zhivago comes in, a book banned in the Eastern Bloc for its critiques of the State. Intellectuals, scholars, artists and writers and were used as propaganda tools to disseminate the ideo I predict that Lara Prescott’s debut novel will be a smash hit. From the first sentence, at “The Agency” in D.C. in the 1950s, with the clack of the typewriter keys, the typing pool women engage us. The Agency goals are to spin subversive words into gold to spread democratic ideals. That is where the role of Dr. Zhivago comes in, a book banned in the Eastern Bloc for its critiques of the State. Intellectuals, scholars, artists and writers and were used as propaganda tools to disseminate the ideology of the West to places behind the Iron Curtain in the East. Prescott demonstrates the role of women to advance this objective, giving us an absorbing, scintillating, and exceptionally well-paced page-turner that will have you canceling dates and burning dinner to keep reading.During the ten or so years that Pasternak was writing his masterpiece, word had come to the attention of the cultural heads of State that the content may contradict their dogma. Boris’ lover, Olga, was Pasternak’s muse for the character of Lara, Dr. Zhivago’s love interest. She had already gone to the gulag once, so that the State could tap her for information on Pasternak’s “heretical” novel-in-progress.The narrative alternates between East and West--Olga and Boris in the East, and the typing pool women in the West. Among the women in D.C., the focus is on Irina and Sally, two very different women who become more than just typists. You can use Swallow or Carrier to describe them—women who are talented at getting info from loose-lipped men that possess important information (Swallow), or who are trained and clever at dropping envelopes of top secret information to their appointed recipients. Whether you are familiar (or uninformed) with Dr. Zhivago, the Cold War, or the 1950s, it won’t matter. Prescott shines in installing the reader instantly and sustaining our interest. The words flow with the urgent but descriptive narrative, and the momentum is both fierce and sinuous. The women often work as “doubles” to obtain information. “A double is a bit of a misnomer; one person doesn’t become two. Rather, one loses a part of herself in order to exist in two worlds, never fully existing in either.”Well, I can tell you, the only world I existed in for the time I was reading this novel was Prescott’s narrative creation. There isn’t one false word or boring passage. I was gripped from the opening page to the hypnotic end. And, still, I can’t get these women out of my head.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Picture Mad Men set in the early days of the CIA with an equal dose of historical fiction at the sunset of Stalin's reign over the Soviet Union. I found both sections highly engaging and couldn't flip the pages fast enough. I was a little unsure if I would like this book given that so much of it was focused on Dr. Zhivago (which I haven't read yet, but it's been on my shelf since my Russian History college days so now I will definitely read it soon), so I didn't know if a lot of it would go over Picture Mad Men set in the early days of the CIA with an equal dose of historical fiction at the sunset of Stalin's reign over the Soviet Union. I found both sections highly engaging and couldn't flip the pages fast enough. I was a little unsure if I would like this book given that so much of it was focused on Dr. Zhivago (which I haven't read yet, but it's been on my shelf since my Russian History college days so now I will definitely read it soon), so I didn't know if a lot of it would go over my head since I wasn't familiar with the plot of that book. If you share the same concern there is nothing to worry about. I think my not having read it almost helped me because a lot of characters in the book readily admit not having read the book either until years and years after the operation. I'm going to stick with my 4 star rating, but I was slightly disappointed in the ending. Things just kind of peter out, BUT and that's a big one - I'm not sure that assessment is totally fair either. There was so much build up and suspense with all the characters and as the book rounded down I could feel it simmering out. At the same time, I think it was true to life (now that I'm really reflecting properly in writing this review) since life always keeps going. Once operations happen and spies do their jobs, they don't sit around and talk about it for years. They move on to the next operation/mission and on and on. I guess my slight disappointment comes from wanting to have followed Sally and Irina a bit longer. Maybe most will disagree and think the author ended it appropriately, but I was hoping to stick around a little while longer.Overall, this was a great read and one I plan to own in the future. I suspect this book will do very well and probably will be made into a series (which I will watch eagerly) - especially now with the Reese Witherspoon bump. I've been burned a bunch by her picks, but this is one I'm happy to say is a good one.Thank you to Edelweiss, Knopf Publishing and Lara Prescott for the opportunity to read and provide an honest review of this book!Review Date: 9/10/19Publication Date: 09/03/19
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  • Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
    January 1, 1970
    This is a beautifully written novel unlike anything I’ve read for a long while. I’m so glad I decided to try this as it’s not my usual type of read.Female spies. The Cold War. Communism. Secrets. Double Agents. Forbidden Books. Forbidden Love. Brilliantly put together, despite being fiction, a lot of this is based on fact of how the book Doctor Zhivago made it to being published when the Soviet Union had such issues with it that lives were at risk. This is the time that the country controlled it This is a beautifully written novel unlike anything I’ve read for a long while. I’m so glad I decided to try this as it’s not my usual type of read.Female spies. The Cold War. Communism. Secrets. Double Agents. Forbidden Books. Forbidden Love. Brilliantly put together, despite being fiction, a lot of this is based on fact of how the book Doctor Zhivago made it to being published when the Soviet Union had such issues with it that lives were at risk. This is the time that the country controlled its people, their minds and what freedom they had.Some fantastic characters interweave in this incredible story. I fell in love with all of them. Lived vicariously as a female American spy on the Russians, the lover of a married author the world came to know, two women who found a friendship amidst state and personal secrets. It’s addictive and engaging.The pace is steady from start to finish. The plot and the fact so much is history fascinated me, so much that I’m now looking up facts around the secret and dangerous publication of Doctor Zhivago. Imagine being willing to be called a traitor because you had to write a story stuck inside you?The author is an exceptional talent and by the end of the novel a world of thoughts and emotions were stirred up. Once all the pieces of the larger puzzle fit, it’s an incredible story, told so well.I picked up the book to read every moment I had and was truly enthralled. If you think this is not your thing, think again. A stunning, powerful and important novel. Now I must read Doctor Zhivago of course! Five stars.Thank you to the publisher for my advance copy to review. All opinions and ratings are my own and unbiased.
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  • Mary McBride
    January 1, 1970
    This novel took place during the Cold War and the release of the iconic novel Dr. Zhivago. Based on the true story of the author/poet Boris Pasternak and how the CIA was involved in creating unrest in the Soviet Union. Makes me want to read Dr. Zhivago...
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  • Alyson
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't know anything about Boris Pasternak, so this was a great historical fiction pick for me. My favorite sections were those about the amazing women of the typing pool!
  • Maine Colonial
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free publisher’s advance review copy.We’re all familiar with the political Cold War, but what’s less well known is the cultural Cold War. The USSR and the US battled for cultural supremacy, using the arts as their weapons.The CIA seized upon Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago as the ultimate weapon in this war. Pasternak wasn’t allowed to publish his book in the USSR because the state viewed it as anti-Soviet. The CIA obtained a smuggled copy and not only used it as their source for a I received a free publisher’s advance review copy.We’re all familiar with the political Cold War, but what’s less well known is the cultural Cold War. The USSR and the US battled for cultural supremacy, using the arts as their weapons.The CIA seized upon Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago as the ultimate weapon in this war. Pasternak wasn’t allowed to publish his book in the USSR because the state viewed it as anti-Soviet. The CIA obtained a smuggled copy and not only used it as their source for an English-language version of the book, but set up a scheme to print copies in Russian to give to Russian visitors to Expo 58 in Belgium, and the later Vienna World’s Fair, expecting that they would take the books back to the USSR and disseminate it there.Prescott takes this exciting geopolitical story and makes it personal and women-centered. In alternating East and West sections, she focuses on Olga Ivinskaya, Pasternak’s lover, his model for the book’s Lara character, and his literary representative; and on the women of the CIA involved in the mission.While Olga’s story is affecting, it is her depiction of two CIA women, Irina and Sally, that makes the book shine. Don’t be fooled by the sappy title; this is an intelligent piece of historical fiction with fully realized characters.
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  • JanB
    January 1, 1970
    DNF’d at 38%I was expecting a suspenseful spy novel, but what I got was thinly disguised romance/chick-lit. It's all too common with historical fiction in recent years, and why I struggle with the genre. The love affair between Pasternak and Olga left me cold, the alternating narratives in the West chapters were confusing, the secretarial pool characters lacked depth, and the writing style was simplistic. Frankly, I was bored silly.
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  • Latkins
    January 1, 1970
    This compelling novel tells the true story of how Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak was smuggled out of and back into the USSR in the 1950s, as part of the CIA's cold war efforts. It concentrates on the life of Boris's long-term mistress Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to a gulag for many years by the Soviet government, and also on the lives of two female American spies. As well as highlighting the harsh and terrifying conditions in the USSR, it also explores the toxic masculinity of America's inte This compelling novel tells the true story of how Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak was smuggled out of and back into the USSR in the 1950s, as part of the CIA's cold war efforts. It concentrates on the life of Boris's long-term mistress Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to a gulag for many years by the Soviet government, and also on the lives of two female American spies. As well as highlighting the harsh and terrifying conditions in the USSR, it also explores the toxic masculinity of America's intelligence service at the time, and the poor way women were treated. With strong characters and a thrilling storyline, it's an excellent read.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to the publisher, via Edelweiss, for providing me with an arc of this book.The Secrets we Kept starts off interesting, with the collective voice of the typists setting the stage for what's to come. The true story of the publication of Doctor Zhivago is fascinating, and the focus of much of the book, with slight detours into story lines of fictional characters. I would've happily read about Boris and Olga, or have enjoyed fleshed out stories of Sally, Irina, and Teddy but all of these p Thank you to the publisher, via Edelweiss, for providing me with an arc of this book.The Secrets we Kept starts off interesting, with the collective voice of the typists setting the stage for what's to come. The true story of the publication of Doctor Zhivago is fascinating, and the focus of much of the book, with slight detours into story lines of fictional characters. I would've happily read about Boris and Olga, or have enjoyed fleshed out stories of Sally, Irina, and Teddy but all of these plot threads together fail to make a great story. I can get the true story of Boris and Olga from any number of books mentioned in the author's notes, so I am fine with getting a more Coles' Notes version in this book. However, the inclusion of the American story line (while crucial to the dissemination of Doctor Zhivago), sucks the air out of the book. Why add these paper thin fictional characters, that have glimmers of interesting qualities, but do so little with them? I don't know, but it put a damper on my interest the further I got into the story.I haven't read the books that Prescott recommends in her author's note, but I'd be more inclined to recommend them to anyone interested in the CIA's use of books to undermine the Soviets.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Spies, secret police, a banned book, two gorgeous love stories - this book has everything. It's a totally absorbing and suspenseful read that's also asking big questions about love and loyalty, art and ambition, and what it means to live your life in the shadows. Definitely a must-read!!
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  • Nicole Jarvis
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book! The characters are all so vivid, from the more minor narrators to a brilliantly-done first person plural narrator. I’ve never seen or read Dr. Zhivago, but this makes me want to. What a fascinating story behind its publication! I love female-centric looks at history (especially one that includes a queer love story), and this does a masterful job at a fast-paced narrative. Highly recommended!
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  • Samantha
    January 1, 1970
    Well written, great story idea, but the character and plot development felt very superficial.
  • Sue Seligman
    January 1, 1970
    When this book was announced as the new pick by Reese Witherspoon, I checked out the summary and decided to request it at the library. As a huge fan of historical fiction, my favorite books are usually set during World War I and World War II as well as more recent contemporary history. I had not read too many books set during the Cold War, with the recent exception of The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis (another excellent read)! I was intrigued by the thought of a book centered around the publicati When this book was announced as the new pick by Reese Witherspoon, I checked out the summary and decided to request it at the library. As a huge fan of historical fiction, my favorite books are usually set during World War I and World War II as well as more recent contemporary history. I had not read too many books set during the Cold War, with the recent exception of The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis (another excellent read)! I was intrigued by the thought of a book centered around the publication of Dr. Zhivago, a classic novel which led to an amazing movie and short-lived Broadway show. After reading this book, I feel the urge to read Dr. Zhivago as well, now that I know a bit about the backstory.This book is quite amazing. The author, who apparently was named for the main female character in the classic novel, does an incredible job of moving a complicated plot along with alternating chapters and sections set in the East (Russia) and the West (Washington, DC). The story is told from the points of view from members of a typing pool, women who during the war had completed spy missions and were now relegated to typing classified papers from their male superiors as well as specific employees, Irina and Sally, who will play critical roles in an important mission involving a Russian novel. We will also learn about the lives of Boris Pasternak, the author of the book, and his mistress/muse, Olga who are confined by the chains of the Cold War, from the time of Lenin, Stalin, and post Stalin, when writing or behaving in such a way that was perceived as anti Russian could be devastating! This is a novel that has everything! There are emotional issues such as love, family and friendship relationships, and betrayal. Women had to deal with their inferior status in the workplace after having worked side by side with the same men during wartime. Some even had to submit to sexual advances from their bosses in order to keep their jobs. The author even demonstrates the difficulty faced by men and women who wanted to pursue same sex relationships...this could also result in losing your job. The situation in Russia during this time was scary and bleak; Pasternak’s mistress spent three years in the Gulag because of her relationship with the famous author. The descriptions of the settings and the character development were spot on in this novel. All in all, an excellent and informative historical fiction novel! Highly recommend!
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  • Cathy
    January 1, 1970
    Alternating between events either side of the Iron Curtain over a number of decades and incorporating multiple points of view, the structure of the book does require some concentration on the part of the reader. However, the effort will be amply rewarded.There are some clever touches. I especially liked the chapters told from the collective point of view of ‘The Typists’, the members of the CIA typing pool. Equally as intelligent (and in many cases, more intelligent) than the male employees of t Alternating between events either side of the Iron Curtain over a number of decades and incorporating multiple points of view, the structure of the book does require some concentration on the part of the reader. However, the effort will be amply rewarded.There are some clever touches. I especially liked the chapters told from the collective point of view of ‘The Typists’, the members of the CIA typing pool. Equally as intelligent (and in many cases, more intelligent) than the male employees of the organisation, their gender sees them confined to administrative roles.   Also how the changing roles of key characters is cleverly reflected in the chapter headings.The use of impersonal descriptors such as ‘The Muse’, ‘The Applicant’ or ‘The Emissary’ picks up on one of the themes explored in the book, that of identity. As one character observes, “I could become just about anyone”.The act of writing and the power of literature to reflect, challenge and communicate ideas is a central focus of the book. In writing Doctor Zhivago – ‘the great novel you’ve dreamed of’ – and pursuing its publication, Boris Pasternak sacrifices everything: his freedom, his reputation and ultimately his health.  It also creates collateral damage, not least to Olga, his lover, muse and the inspiration for Lara, the novel’s heroine.In Sally, Olga and Irina, the author paints portraits of three strong, resilient and resourceful women.  Olga’s experiences are particularly powerfully described. Arguably all the women prove themselves stronger than any of the men who claim to love them. This makes the final chapters revealing the fates of the women surely as chilling and moving as anything in Doctor Zhivago.With its cast of spies, moles, couriers and double agents, the book conjures up the clandestine world of code words, secret rendezvous and undercover surveillance in the best traditions of John le Carré (think The Russia House or The Spy Who Came In From The Cold). There are also some great set pieces such as the scene in which illicit copies of Doctor Zhivago are distributed to be smuggled into the Soviet Union.Combining touching love stories with the characteristic elements of a spy novel, as well as intelligently exploring themes such as identity and gender equality, The Secrets We Kept is an intensely satisfying read.
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  • Bri
    January 1, 1970
    A thrilling and tragic love story took place during the height of the Cold War.The Secrets We Kept is based on Boris Pasternak’s famous ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and the chaos behind it. Lara Prescott does an incredible job with the outline and plot of the novel. This story is told in a collection of first-person narratives. We meet Boris Pasternak, his mistress Olga, two female spies Irina and Sally, Teddy and ‘The Typists’. The structure of the novel was my favorite part of it. I loved being able to un A thrilling and tragic love story took place during the height of the Cold War.The Secrets We Kept is based on Boris Pasternak’s famous ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and the chaos behind it. Lara Prescott does an incredible job with the outline and plot of the novel. This story is told in a collection of first-person narratives. We meet Boris Pasternak, his mistress Olga, two female spies Irina and Sally, Teddy and ‘The Typists’. The structure of the novel was my favorite part of it. I loved being able to understand the different point of views.This story is full of heartache, love, thrill, patriotism, and strong women. The character growth in Irina and Olga was admirable and empowering.As someone who has little to no knowledge of the Cold War, Doctor Zhivago, and the USSR this book opened my eyes to a lot of history I was unaware of, and this is exactly what I look for in a historical fiction book! I gravitate towards historical fiction books based on topics that (a) interest me (b) I have little to no knowledge on.This novel grabbed me from the beginning. From start to finish, it was so interesting and captivating. For fans of the Cold War, Doctor Zhivago, and historical fiction this is a must-read! This book is definitely one of my favorite reads of 2019!
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  • Linda Romer
    January 1, 1970
    I really liked The Secrets We Keep. I haven't read Doctor Zhivago yet, but after reading this I will soon. I think this was a powerful read about the Author Boris Pasternak who's novel wasn't able to be published in the USSR. An endearing story about his life, the story of how his novel came to be published and the consequences that took place. This book also talks about the lives of woman spies and what they had to endure at this time. the book also talks about discrimination of the LGBTQ commu I really liked The Secrets We Keep. I haven't read Doctor Zhivago yet, but after reading this I will soon. I think this was a powerful read about the Author Boris Pasternak who's novel wasn't able to be published in the USSR. An endearing story about his life, the story of how his novel came to be published and the consequences that took place. This book also talks about the lives of woman spies and what they had to endure at this time. the book also talks about discrimination of the LGBTQ community, banned books and the US involvement in bringing Doctor Zhivago back to the USSR. Looking forward to more great reads by this Author.#TheSecretsWeKeep #NetGalleyI give The Secrets we Keep 4 stars for its interesting and endearing read.I would recommend this book to Historical Fiction Fans.
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  • Andrea
    January 1, 1970
    3. A dual timeline, which I like. Different because not past and present, but same-starting in 1950s-Washington, D.C. and Soviet Union. And though I wasn't yet in D.C. at that time, I believe Prescott did her research well [for the most part-some of the gegraphic connections might be a bit off-locations and timing didnt seem quite right in a couple of instances [when going from one location to another--though I could be wrong].The setting. "It’s the dawn of the Cold War, and words have been weap 3. A dual timeline, which I like. Different because not past and present, but same-starting in 1950s-Washington, D.C. and Soviet Union. And though I wasn't yet in D.C. at that time, I believe Prescott did her research well [for the most part-some of the gegraphic connections might be a bit off-locations and timing didnt seem quite right in a couple of instances [when going from one location to another--though I could be wrong].The setting. "It’s the dawn of the Cold War, and words have been weaponized.In Moscow, Olga Ivinskaya is arrested. She is the muse of Boris Pasternak...."And, for me the far more compelling, interesting story-the newly formed CIA, where ""..former OSS agent Sally Forrester [is enlisted] to vet and mentor a new member of their typing pool, Irina Drozdova," And yes: "The story unfolds around the Soviet State’s persecution of Boris and Olga, the growing relationship between Sally and Irina, and the CIA’s clandestine Zhivago mission. And it follows Pasternak’s masterpiece as it travels around the world. This is an intricate and timely story of political and social persecution and the war of words between the US and the USSR. It explores themes of sexism, sexuality, secrecy, and how people change over time."I totally got all the sexism, cultural climate in D.C., the typing pool, the Cold War, the writers' struggles in the Soviet Union, the gulag and so on, I did think that some of the chapter headings [which showed transitions] were clever. And written well enough, but not enough for me.BUT. It didn't really grab me. And some of the D.C. story was just too obvious. I could have put it down but I wanted to see how it ultimately played out.HOWEVER: Now I want to see the movie [not necessarily read the book] Dr. Zhivago again; it's been decades!
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  • Tiffany
    January 1, 1970
    “In a man’s world, women are the perfect spies.”What an exceptionally fitting tagline for Lara Prescott’s enthralling novel set in the Cold War era! Told from multiple points of view, this story takes us from the deceptive calm of typing pool of the CIA to the warm hearth of Boris Pasternak’s cottage as he and his muse discuss his latest masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago, unaware of the fate that would befall them because of it. The women of this story are far and above the masterminds, the moving for “In a man’s world, women are the perfect spies.”What an exceptionally fitting tagline for Lara Prescott’s enthralling novel set in the Cold War era! Told from multiple points of view, this story takes us from the deceptive calm of typing pool of the CIA to the warm hearth of Boris Pasternak’s cottage as he and his muse discuss his latest masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago, unaware of the fate that would befall them because of it. The women of this story are far and above the masterminds, the moving forces, and the backbone of everything that transpires. It was absolutely a stunning page-turner of historical fiction, meticulously researched, and characters so masterfully fleshed out that you forget the “fiction” aspect entirely. When I closed the final pages, I was not ready to leave Olga, Sally, Irina, and the typists behind, despite the satisfying endings. Definitely one of my favorite reads of 2019!Five heart-wrenching stars and a huge thank you to Book Browse, Lara Prescott, and A. A Knopf Publishing for supplying me with this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Tina Panik
    January 1, 1970
    This strong premise of female secretaries-as-spies begins to erode once the Russian target is identified. The alternating narratives are confusing, and the climax is not as rewarding as the set up. This was an ARC from BookExpo NYC.
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