The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

The Secrets We Kept

I haven’t read Doctor Zhivago, so what would I make of a book all about its publication?

The Secrets – The Blurb

A celebrated Russian author is writing a book, Doctor Zhivago, which could spark dissent in the Soviet Union. The Soviets, afraid of its subversive power, ban it.

But in the rest of the world it’s fast becoming a sensation.

The CIA plans to use the book to tip the Cold War in its favour. Their agents are not the usual spies, however. Two typists – the charming, experienced Sally and the talented novice Irina – are charged with the mission of a lifetime: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago back into Russia by any means necessary.

It will not be easy. There are people willing to die for this book – and agents willing to kill for it. But they cannot fail – as this book has the power to change history.

That would make a good book

After reading the book I started researching Doctor Zhivago and Boris Pasternak. I was surprised about how much of The Secrets was actually true. Pasternak’s mistress Olga, her imprisonment, the Nobel Prize, the World Fair, the Italian publication. All of these are truths. What a story the writing of Doctor Zhivago would make! Prescott thought so too. Add some spies and some typists in to the mix and you have a corker of a book.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman

Prescott wrote excellently about life as a single woman in the 1950s. The sense of injustice at being pushed back into stereotypical roles following the war ending was palpable. The labelling of the women at the start of each chapter only heightened this. Note the multiple roles every woman had to play! In one way Prescott illustrated the never before freedom these women had. Lunch at restaurants whenever money allowed, full time work, independent living away from parents. Yet the flip side was always present. It was understood that your notice would be handed in when marriage came along. Whilst it seemed OK to have dalliances with men (married or not) heaven forbid you should look twice at a woman. Such a thing would only cause shame to your boss, your family, your country.

Olga’s life contrasted perfectly with the American girls. She was constantly under surveillance and imprisoned for nothing more than loving a writer. You really got a sense of the pain she experienced at the hands of Boris. His love got her through the Gulag, yet he would never leave his wife, he would never leave Russia, his writing would always be first. I’m not sure I could have accepted her situation as readily as she did.


My thanks go to Random Things Tour for a copy of The Secrets in exchange for an honest review. Prescott writes excellently about women and the story behind Doctor Zhivago (which I now want to read). It has a quite beautiful ending and would make an excellent book club book.

If The Secrets wets your appetite for all things Russian, try A Gentleman In Moscow a love letter to the Country.

The Secrets We Kept
The Secrets We Kept