The Secrets We Kept

Lara Prescott’s The Secrets We Kept is a great spy caper all told through the eyes of women on both sides of the story. Inspired by the way in which the CIA used Doctor Zhivago as a propaganda tool in the 1950s, Prescott weaves a tale told from both sides and it sucked me in, I tore through the book in a couple of days.

Prescott uses the typing pool in the CIA headquarters (back before Langley was built) to tie the story together, but then also has three other women involved in the story tell their sides, one of which is Pasternak’s mistress in the Soviet Union. Between these four different points of view, the story unfolds and we learn about the writing of the book, the way in which the Soviet government sees it, and what the CIA wants to do with it.

The book is about so much more than that, it’s also about how women and people of that era were forced to live hidden lives if they didn’t fit in culturally. And as we learn more and more about the main characters, we see how difficult it was to be different in that era. But for me the true brilliance was the use of the typing pool characters, the chapters from their point of view wove it all together and helped you see just how the other characters’ lives intersected.

I have no idea how much of the history is true, but the book has made me want to read more about that era and about this operation in particular, because it’s a fascinating idea to use literature to help change a country.