The Secrets We Keptby Published 17 Sep 2019
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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 Reviews
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 😩
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...
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.
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.
Got a chance to read this one for a cover quote, and I will definitely be offering one. It's terrific!