Cristina Reads Too Much: The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott


Getting around to reading a book (other than a textbook) can be tough in college, we know this.  When you’re cramming in between classes, Her Campus Lasell’s got you covered.  

Introducing Cristina Reads Too Much, a weekly segment where we break down and spill the tea about the best books RN and give our honest reviews and ratings.  


The Rundown:


Set during the Cold War, Lara Prescott’s debut novel is loosely based on the true story of the CIA’s plot to infiltrate Soviet Russia through the publication of the novel Doctor Zhivago.  The Secrets We Kept tells of the “swallows”, CIA secretaries who acted as spies, carrying and relaying information.  The story is told through the varying perspectives of the people involved, including the author of Doctor Zhivago himself, the secretaries, and the two women at the helm of the CIA’s mission.  The story starts in 1949 when Russian author Boris Pasternak begins working on his magnum opus Doctor Zhivago, a love story that also challenges the Communist ideals of Russia at the time.  The writing of the novel is told through the eyes of Pasternak’s mistress and muse Olga Ivinskaya as she watches the influence she has had on him--the novel’s heroine, Lara, is based on her.  The story then jumps ahead to 1955 when two CIA secretaries are selected to take on the most important assignment of their lives. Their mission? To smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of Russia, where it is censored and nobody will dare to publish it, and help the novel make its way into print and into different languages so that it can be distributed around the world.  The mission is put into the hands of two women who couldn’t be more different from each other. Veteran spy Sally Forrester is glamorous, sophisticated, and knows how to wield her gifts of charisma and charm to wheedle secrets out of powerful men. Irena, by contrast, is the shy daughter of Russian immigrants and a complete novice, but she’s confident in her ability to learn how to be a spy.  With help from Sally, Irena soon learns how to discreetly obtain and ferry classified documents, get people to spill critical information, and use her beauty to her advantage. Sally and Irena move about all around the world, from Washington, D.C. to Paris to Milan, cracking secrets and passing along contraband copies of Doctor Zhivago. Sally and Irena develop a deep bond throughout their mission, though, the intricacies of which only threatens to make things even more complicated than they are. 

My thoughts:

Intriguing and bursting at the seams with girl power, The Secrets We Kept is an interesting take on 20th-century history.  I always enjoy reading about the role of women in history, and this book was no different.  I went into The Secrets We Kept thinking that it was more heavily rooted in historical fact than it is (while the CIA plot actually happened and Doctor Zhivago is a real novel, the characters of Sally and Irena are fictional), but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  There are a lot of POVs in this book which gets confusing at times, but I also appreciate the varying views on the plot.  If you like history, or simply want a story full of drama and action, you’ll love The Secrets We Kept. 

My rating:

4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“I wanted them to take a cold hard look at the system that has allowed the State to kill off any writer, any intellectual--hell, even any meteorologist--they disagreed with”.