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The Secrets We Kept

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

A dramatic and entertaining debut novel of love and intrigue.



A young quiet Russian-American secretary, Irina is plucked from the CIA typing pool and given the assignment of a lifetime. Her mission is to help smuggle a book, Doctor Zhivago into the USSR, where it is banned, because of its portrayal of life under Communism.

Mentoring Irina is Sally Forrester: a glamorous seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit. Under Sally’s tutelage, Irina learns how to blend in and make drops—and she discovers deeply buried truths about herself.

The novel combines the legendary literary love story between Dr. Zhivago author Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, with a narrative about two women destined to lead lives of intrigue and risk.


I felt an instantaneous connection to this book The novel starts with Irina stressing on her way to a job interview and typing test at the CIA. My mother started working for the FBI in Washington DC in 1941. She has a similar amusing story of how stressed she was leading up to the interview and the typing test,

THE SECRETS WE KEPT is a dramatic and entertaining debut novel of love and intrigue. It’s a period piece of spycraft at the height of the Cold War. I particularly appreciated the feminist roles of the three lead characters, Irina, Sally and Olga.

The writing was good but the ever changing narrators threw me for a loop in the first part of the book., There is a lot going on in the book with a vast array of characters, so you will need to stay alert. The story is like a patchwork quilt of people, places and times stitched together into an interesting story. Note that some of the patches may still be missing

One of my favorite parts was Olga’s arrests and incarceration in the Russian gulag for refusing to reveal the subject of Pasternak’s novel. Her perseverance and willingness to stand by her man was noteworthy.

Author Lara Prescott received her MFA from the University of Texas 2018. She is named after Lara’s character in Dr Zhivago. When she read a newspaper article in 2014 about how the CIA used the book to undermine the Soviet Union she decided to research the subject further, ultimately writing this novel.

Publisher Knopf

Published September 3, 2019

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