The mention of Dr Zhivago was all I needed to persuade me to read The Secrets We Kept even though, like many of the characters within the narrative, I've never read Boris Pasternak's masterpiece, although, I do admit to borrowing a copy from the library back in the 1980s which I returned unread. Therefore I'm happy to say I've devoured this fascinating historical novel from cover to cover and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Ms Prescott's début novel covers the intriguing history surrounding the circumstances of how Dr Zhivago was first published in Italy. Also, the covert work done by the CIA during the height of the Cold War to obtain a copy of the untranslated Russian manuscript. The aim to make copies available to Soviet citizens at a time when the unpublished work's deemed as Anti-Soviet by The Kremlin. She also reminds us about a time in history when sexism reigned and intolerance lead to punishment.
Told from mostly female points of view, the narrative unfolds in both the United States and the Soviet Union between 1949 and 1958. It includes the poignant and heartbreaking relationship strife experienced by Olga, Boris Pasternak's mistress as well as Irina Drozdova's time spent working in the Agency typing pool and her part of securing a copy of Pasternak's Russian manuscript after she and Sally are recruited into the world of espionage. Their parts in bringing Dr Zhivago to the world's literary stage is laced with equally captivating inclusions of facts and social trends of the time including references to music, fashion and food. Yet, it's the drawing attention to the use of propaganda which sends a powerful message of equal importance as much today as it did half a century ago.
Within the last two years, my favourite books have mostly been historical novels and this one is a more than worthy addition to my list. With a reminder of Yuri and Lara's love story in my mind, The Secrets We Kept comes highly recommended.
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