The BookWalker's Top Pick titles includes works of bestselling authors and emerging writers. Titles were selected and voted by our staff. Please note: the selection process is heavily biased but fairly influenced by personal preference and the editor's opinions.
“The Secrets We Kept is simply sensational. Two gripping narratives unfold in the pressure cooker of the Cold War: passionate, courageous Olga who stands in the shadow of Soviet author Boris Pasternak yet inspires him to write a heroine for the ages, and the cynical, equally-overshadowed women of the CIA who help bring Pasternak's masterpiece Dr. Zhivago to bear as a weapon against Soviet oppression. From the gulags of the USSR to the cherry blossom trees of Washington DC, the story grips and refuses to let go. Lara Prescott is a star in the making.”
―Kate Quinn, New York Times Bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network
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.
This is the story
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.
Reviews and What Readers Say
“ Epic in scope, deliciously meaty, and utterly convincing.”
―Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
“ Stylish, thrilling, smart, vivid.”
―Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck & Other Stories
“ If you Google "Dr Zhivago", the first dozen or so entries are for the (in my opinion over-rated) movie.But, before it was a film, it was a noverl that DID manage to win a little thing called the Nobel Prize for literature (which its author was not allowed to accept)And before THAT it had to be published somewhere and you KNOW the Soviet Union, where Pasternack wrote it, was not going to allow that to happen!So it had to be smuggled out to the West by means that, to this day, are still shroded in some obscurity; an obscurity that allows author Lara Prescott to offer this marvelous and marvelously readable speculation that id part "Hidden Figures". Part "The Bletchley Circle" , part John LeCarre, and wholely unputdownable.I believe it was William Goldman (although I could be wrong) who prefaced one of his books with what should also be the disclaimer for this one: "Most of this is true, and the parts that aren't, OUGHT to be!"Just read it already!”
―Enubrius, VINE VOICE, Amazon Client Review
“ 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. ”
―Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
The Secrets We Kept: A novel by Lara Prescott
Note: Title will be released on September 3, 2019. To pre-order please click here
LARA PRESCOTT received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, Austin. She was previously an animal protection advocate and a political campaign operative. Her stories have appeared in The Southern Review, The Hudson Review, Crazyhorse, Day One, and Tin House Flash Fridays. She won the 2016 Crazyhorse Fiction Prize for the first chapter of The Secrets We Kept. She lives in Austin, Texas.