The secrets we kept

Lara Prescott

Book - 2019

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 complet...e novice, and under Sally's tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.

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Genres
Novels
Spy fiction
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2019.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
pages cm
ISBN
9780525656159
0525656154
Main Author
Lara Prescott (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Spy stories offer high reader appeal, and Prescott's debut far surpasses the typical genre fare. In her novel, set during the post-WWII Cold War era, East seldom meets West, but events in each influence the other deeply. Through extensive research, Prescott artfully illuminates the CIA's role in helping disseminate the Soviet-banned Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. That novel, smuggled into and printed in Italy, found wide acclaim and earned its author a Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, as the Soviets launch satellites and chase scientific discoveries, the CIA takes a literary approach, choosing to change hearts and minds with literature. To that end, they trained women to deliver messages and ferret secrets from powerful men. Two such woman are Irina, an American with deep ties to Russia, and beautiful, mysterious Sally; both women have secrets of their own to conceal. Prescott, herself named after Doctor Zhivago's heroine, does a masterful job of spanning continents and juggling shifting points of view, but readers may wish to keep notes to remember who's who. Cold War buffs or those familiar with Pasternak's tour-de-force and its adaptations will find this book especially enticing. Those new to the story will still be intrigued, and perhaps want to seek out the original. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Spy stories offer high reader appeal, and Prescott's debut far surpasses the typical genre fare. In her novel, set during the post-WWII Cold War era, East seldom meets West, but events in each influence the other deeply. Through extensive research, Prescott artfully illuminates the CIA's role in helping disseminate the Soviet-banned Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. That novel, smuggled into and printed in Italy, found wide acclaim and earned its author a Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, as the Soviets launch satellites and chase scientific discoveries, the CIA takes a literary approach, choosing to change hearts and minds with literature. To that end, they trained women to deliver messages and ferret secrets from powerful men. Two such woman are Irina, an American with deep ties to Russia, and beautiful, mysterious Sally; both women have secrets of their own to conceal. Prescott, herself named after Doctor Zhivago's heroine, does a masterful job of spanning continents and juggling shifting points of view, but readers may wish to keep notes to remember who's who. Cold War buffs or those familiar with Pasternak's tour-de-force and its adaptations will find this book especially enticing. Those new to the story will still be intrigued, and perhaps want to seek out the original. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

DEBUT Boris Pasternak's masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago, banned in the Soviet Union, was smuggled out to an Italian publisher in 1957, when the book became a literary sensation in the West. In the United States, the work became a propaganda tool for the CIA. Prescott's exciting novel begins with the women who work in the agency's typing pool. Among these "gals" in Washington ("The West") are the young Russian American Irina and the sophisticated Sally, whose secretarial careers have turned into something a great deal more dangerous. Back in Moscow ("The East"), historical characters include Pasternak himself and his longtime lover Olga, the inspiration for Lara in his novel. Olga pays the highest price, spending years in the Gulag, a reminder of just how grim the Soviet years were. This rich and well-researched narrative has an almost epic sweep, with alternating dramatic plots involving spies and espionage, many fascinating characters (both historical and fictional) from East and West, and a gifted writer and storyteller to tie it all together. VERDICT For a debut novelist, Prescott writes with astonishing assurance, enthralling readers with tales of secret agents and intrigue, love, and betrayal. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/4/19.]—Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Prescott's triumphant debut offers a fresh perspective on women employed by the CIA during the 1950s and their role in disseminating into the Soviet Union copies of Dr. Zhivago,Boris Pasternak's banned masterpiece. In 1956, American-born Irina Drozdova gets a job at the CIA ostensibly as a typist but is destined for fieldwork. Former OSS agent Sally Forrester trains Irina in spycraft. Meanwhile, inside the Soviet Union, Boris Pasternak's lover, Olga Vsevolodovna, is interrogated about Pasternak's work in progress, Dr. Zhivago. After three years in a prison camp, she reunites with Pasternak, who, unable to publish in the Soviet Union, entrusts his novel to an Italian publisher's representative. Back in Washington, Irina, now engaged to a male agent but in love with Sally, seeks assignment overseas. Dressed as a nun, she places copies of Dr. Zhivago, printed in the original Russian for the CIA, into the hands of Soviet citizens visiting the Vienna World's Fair. Through lucid images and vibrant storytelling, Prescott creates an edgy postfeminist vision of the Cold War, encompassing Sputnik to glasnost, typing pool to gulag, for a smart, lively page-turner. This debut shines as spy story, publication thriller, and historical romance with a twist. 200,000-copy announced first printing. (Sept.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A tale of spycraft, love and sacrifice inspired by the true story of Doctor Zhivago follows the efforts of two CIA agents to help publish Boris Pasternak’s censored masterpiece against a backdrop of Cold War politics in Moscow.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

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.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A HELLO SUNSHINE x REESE WITHERSPOON BOOK CLUB PICKA 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.