The Secrets We Kept

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This was a really fascinating character study of the women in the intelligence community and I really enjoyed it. Based on a true story, the novel explores the writing of Doctor Zhivago in the USSR during the Cold War and the way in which the novel was used by the CIA for propaganda purposes. Told from multiple perspectives, the narrative gives a really well rounded account of the years immediately preceding and following the novel and I found the level of detail lent a real authenticity to the action, which I really appreciated. I think it's important to note that this isn't a fast-paced, action packed spy novel. Instead, it is a nuanced and balanced examination of the individuals involved and we are given the time and space to really get to know them on an emotional level. I found the relationships and motivations completely believable and I loved the way that Prescott weaves the narrative and forwards the plot by focusing on the characters. This type of narrative won't appeal to those who enjoy the pacier type of thriller, but anyone who appreciates amazing characters, will enjoy this story.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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I struggled to read this book on my kindle, due to the Title coming up on so many pages. It was an interesting book, and very enlightening to read about Boris Pasternak and how Dr Zhivago could not be published in Russia.
Thanks to Netgalley for an Arc.
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First thing to say- is how confident and allusive is the writing .. voices well sketched out .. a chorus of girls too in the typing pool ..  gives an extra intriguing dimension.. but I have to say it took a long time for what seemed like 2 or 3 strands in this sort of came together in this story of  boris pasternak's world class novel  dr zhicago.. all along,  tbe book cleverly assumes we know it .. the writing in contemporary times  and then also his mistress' suffering for him in the past, are excellently almost poetically put  to us. The machinations of getting the book published in Italy first are well known but never so well and brilliantly set out as here. Highly recommended.
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A bidding war, sold in twenty-five countries and September’s choice in Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club, The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott is causing quite the stir. But is it worth all the hype?

My answer? Yes.

This has everything that I really enjoy in a book, a dash of history, a sprinkle of multi-person narrative and a hefty dose of intrigue and suspense.

The Secrets We Kept examines the true story of the publication of Doctor Zhivago, a novel which shines a spotlight on life in Russia. Banned by the Russian Government as a piece of subversive literature it was subsequently published in Europe and then smuggled back into Russia by the Americans. Books are powerful. They contain knowledge and that can be dangerous in a country such as Russia. At the peak of the Cold War America used Doctor Zhivago, a Russian literary masterpiece against them to gain a foothold.

Set predominantly in the 1950s in both America and Russia we are given a front row seat to the events that took place. Told from the perspective of a group of astounding women we are immersed head first into a man’s world.

First there are the chorus of Typists who during the war were intelligence officers in the Office of Strategic Services. They can fly planes, speak Mandarin and run black ops but in post-war America they “type a hundred words per minute” and are referred to by their (male) superiors “not by name but by hair color or body type: blondie, red, tits.”

When a new typist, Irina, joins the ranks she ruffles their feathers. Brought up in America by a Russian mother she is completely different to the women in the typing pool and merges into the background. It is this ability that catches the eye of the men in power and she soon finds that she has more value than she originally thought. I really liked Irina finding her a likeable and brave character. I looked forward to her chapters and was entranced by her friendship with Sally, a CIA operative who is part of the team tasked with smuggling Doctor Zhivago into Russia. They are both wonderfully drawn characters who I really cared for.

But it was the sections in Russia that I particularly enjoyed with Boris Pasternak, author of Doctor Zhivago, and his relationship with his mistress, Olga being the thing that everything else orbits around. She is a driving force and his inspiration and it is through her that we learn about the horrors of living in communist Russia. There are some brutal and heartbreaking moments, particularly when it comes to Boris and Olga’s relationship which I found very moving.

At it’s heart though is the strong women who exist within the pages of the book. The Typists, Irina, Sally, Olga; all women in a man’s world and yet, they are at the heart of power. It is Olga who encourages Boris to try and get his manuscript published in Russia. It is Sally who can make herself become somebody else, taking on a new character the way we would put on a coat. It is Irina who finds bravery and fearlessness and becomes a central player in a major Cold War Operation. And it is the Typists who are keeper of secrets, who read the memos and know more about the inner workings of the CIA than anybody else.

And then there is the brutal and beautiful examination of love and its many facets. Olga and Boris yes, but also parental love, illicit love and love for your country. In a book filled with espionage, terror and threat, love shines like a beacon, giving hope.

If historical novels with intrigue, suspense and fearless female characters are your thing then this could be the book for you. It comes recommended from me.
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What a brilliant story.
Set during the Cold War when a women’s place was in the home and certainly not in the workplace this is the story of brave young women who acted as agents against communism and the oppressive Russian regime..
It is very fast paced and one of those books you don’t want to put down.
Well researched with certain areas of the story based on fact it gives a real insight to the insidious regime of communism of the fifties and sixties of USSR.
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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!
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I was really swept up in the story of this book, it was so interesting to read a book about female spies compared to male spies. And the setting of the Cold Wars locations of the Russia and US was described in such detail the story l=took on a life of its own. I don't know much about Dr Zhivago and i may have to look into the story but this was a very enjoyable read, from a debut author and i look forward to reading more from them. This book was what i would normally pick up but it was great to read something different to what i normally pick.
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The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
This book is set during the height of the Cold War and dealt with an aspect of the Cold War with which I was unfamiliar.  I found it fascinating to read about the lives of the women in the typing pool.  During the Second War these women had been responsible for covert operations and were all highly intelligent.  Following the war they were reduced to writing up the notes for the men who are in charge of the operations. One woman dares to voice her own very lucid and pertinent thoughts in a discussion where she is taking notes and she is never asked to take notes again.
There are two parts to the story those set in the East and related to Boris Pasternak and his lover Olga. The time which Olga spent being “re-educated” in a labour camp give some idea of what life must have been like in the Gulags.  
We also find out about Irina who is taken on in the typing pool but her other skills for undercover work are soon employed.  She is inducted into the life of a spy by Teddy Helms and then by another member of the typing pool.  The story revolves around the publication of Doctor Zhivago which was banned in Russia due to its critical standpoint on the Soviet State.  This novel becomes a key element in the cultural Cold War.  Fascinating!
Many thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for enabling me to read a copy in return for an honest review.
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I was sent a copy of The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott to read and review by NetGalley.
This is a novel set in the 1950s and centres around the publication of Russian Novelist Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece Dr Zhivago.  Alongside Pasternak this story is filled with women, those that surround him personally and also those who play a part in getting Dr Zhivago published.  While this is an interesting and enjoyable book involving lots of characters and intrigue, I did find it rather confusing at times – exactly for that reason.  Even though the book is a novel it is based on fact, so I learned a lot about the cold war and the difficulties of having a voice in the USSR at that time.  Having only previously seen the original film starring Julie Christie and Omar Sharif this novel has sparked a desire in me to read Dr Zhivago in the very near future!
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Superb and compelling
This is the story of how Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece, Dr Zhivago, considered subversive literature was smuggled out of The Soviet Union by a network of people.
The story is written through the eyes of the typists in the Agency in Washington who were responsible for getting the book out into the world; a Russian émigré who worked for the Agency, a Agency worker who was a spy; the Italian publisher who was the first to get the book printed and Pasternak’s mistress Olga who sacrificed much to save her lover from arrest and denunciation.  
The book is beautifully written and extremely moving.  The passion from Pasternak’s writing was reflected around the world and even when it smuggled back in Russia people were risking a lot to read the book secretly.  Thank God things changed and Zhivago was made public for everyone to read.  And I dare anyone not to pick a copy of this book and read it – again if necessary.
A wonderful read and thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book.
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I struggled to read this book as the book title appeared over 180 times in the Kindle version in the middle of sentences. Likewise the author's name appeared over 200 times. It made it hard to read as so often your flow of reading was interrupted as you had to backtrack and mentally removed the rogue words. There were also times when I wasn't sure who the speaker was until some way into the chapter.

The story is set in the 1950s and alternates between the USSR and USA. In the Soviet Union Boris Pasternak's is writing Doctor Zhivago which is guaranteed to cause problems as it does not portray Soviet Russia in a good light. The plot focuses on Pasternak’s relationship with his muse Olga Ivinskaya and how his writings affect her life and family for decades.

Meanwhile in the USA, the plot centres on a pool of typists in Washington DC, some of who are secretly part of a spy network. They were involved in spy operations during WW2 but some are now back on the job being part of the Cold War.

After Doctor Zhivago was rejected for publication in the USSR the manuscript was smuggled to Italy for publication. It then spread to other countries including USA who used their spies to introduce it back to USSR.

The book was a bit of a cross between a romance and a spy thriller but concentrates mostly on the many relationships. There was a tie up between the East and West plots but not as much as I would have liked and I found the ending a bit of a damp squib.

With thanks to NetGalley and Cornerstone, Penguin Random House UK  for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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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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This novel delves behind the writing of Dr Zhivago  and the life of the author, Boris Pasternak.  Based on fact, this fictitious tale takes into account the paranoia of the age, the role of women and how they were discriminated against and used by authority both in the USA and USSR.
An extremely well-researched novel which gives more background information to Dr Zhivago than I thought possible.  I now need to re-read the book and watch the film.




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An intriguing tale, which takes you to Russia and back, with secrets lies and deceit. You hardly know the truth, until the end. An good read.
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I had to dip in and out of this book as I didn't find it an easy read.  However, it was interesting and has made me want to find out more to see how much of the content is artistic licence and how much is based on known facts.

It's an interesting period of history and was good to read more about it.
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#TheSecretsWeKeep was a book that grew on me. I found the first third of the book quite hard to follow (not helped by the formatting of the copy that was shared for reviewing) and I didn’t think I was going to like it very much. I had very much enjoyed the book and film of Dr Zhivago, which is why I asked to read and review this book. I also have an interest in this period of history, particularly for women.
I kept on reading despite my reservations and developed a relationship with the characters and the ended up enjoying the book. The main women characters grew on me and I wanted to find out what happened to them. I also appreciated the idea and the background story to Dr Zhivago. 
Following the Second World War it was difficult for women to find a place in society where they could continue to make a difference. They were used in certain roles during the Cold War, as shown in the book. This was interesting and it is clear how much research the author must have undertaken. 
Thank you to #NetGalley the publishers and the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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Dr Zhivago as a book and a film holds a special place in my heart as I grew up on the film and have read the book several times over the years (I also have a music box that plays Lara's theme).  The Secrets We Kept centres around Boris Pasternak's writing of Dr Zhivago, its reception in Russia, and how the CIA used the book as a weapon in the Cold War. Through the voices of the secretaries who worked in the CIA as agents, Boris and Boris's mistress Olga this fascinating story of the book and those who sought to use it for their own purposes is told.
The Secrets We Kept is one of the most intriguing books I have read in a long time and it had me utterly gripped, and left me with a huge book hangover.  I thought I knew quite a bit about Boris Pasternak and Dr Zhivago, but I had no idea of America's use of the book in the Cold War.  The book is split into parts East and West, Russia and America/Europe and the plot is told in the first person narrative by the main characters during the 1950's.  This book covers so many different genres, thriller, espionage, romance, history, that there really is something for everyone. Lara Prescott, named after the main character in Dr Zhivago, writes with such a beautiful style, and is able to adapt between the more American use of language and the difference of the Russian style with great skill which helps with the demarcation of the East and West.
Lara Prescott really does justice to the main players in this book and skilfully gives them all their own voice in her use of the first person narrative. My favourite character was Olga, which is a bit of a surprise as I sometimes got quite angry with her for putting Boris  before her children.  She may only have been his mistress but she was the one who seemed to suffer the most at the hands of the Russian regime, being  sent to the gulag prison camps in order to try and stop Boris writing the book. Her strength and belief in his work was unbelievable, and showed her love and loyalty to him. In America it was the stories of Sally and Irina, and their role in smuggling the book into Russia that got my attention. Their stories are fascinating, their training, background and their undercover work had me gripped. It gives an insight into the role of women in the CIA, both in the 1950's and during the previous war with Japan, and how even though they put their lives on the line there were still many prejudices surrounding them.  There are many other characters, all memorable in their own way, and add to the brilliance of this book.
The Secrets We Kept is an absolutely amazing read, and one of the most captivating and interesting books I have read in a long time. The espionage, thrills, romance and historical detail combine to make this such a well rounded, multi layered and breathtaking read. Even if you know nothing about Boris Pasternak, and Dr Zhivago, this is still a book that will captivate you, and maybe even encourage you to read, what I think is an absolute classic.  This is a stunning debut from Lara Prescott, and will definitely be one of my ten best reads of the year. I really can't recommend this book highly enough, so get clicking and buying.
 
Thank you for taking the time to read my review of The Secrets we Kept.  I would like to thank Cornerstone publishing for my copy of this amazing book to review.  If any of you are interested in reading Dr Zhivago Vintage Classics have released a newly translated version.
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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 platitudes
The 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 spy
That is the easiest way to explain it, the reality of the book is more complex
It 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 task
The ‘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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I thought this book was very well researched and written in a very readable way, but I didn't like the way the reader didn't always know who was talking until some way into a new chapter.  The story about the publication of Doctor Zhivago was new to me and although Cold War fiction is a genre I usually ignore I enjoyed reading about the efforts to get it published and the aftermath of that decision. A great set of characters and locations. Highly recommended to lovers of historical fiction, Russia, literature and more. It is a very accomplished debut novel. With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review an e-ARC of this novel.
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Not at all what I was expecting but a fantastic read. I flew through the pages blending history and secrets seamlessly all around a great love story, fully recommend
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