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The Secrets We Kept

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  5,957 ratings  ·  816 reviews
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.

At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given t
Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published September 17th 2019 by Knopf (first published September 3rd 2019)
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Lara Prescott I agree with Sherry! It is a masterpiece. But if you haven't read Zhivago, you won't be lost or lacking at all while reading The Secrets We Kept.

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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  5,957 ratings  ·  816 reviews

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Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Lara Prescott weaves a fascinating tale of espionage during the Cold War using Boris Pasternak’s book Dr Zhivago as the basis for her debut thriller. Dr Zhivago is a book that was banned in Pasternak’s homeland - the Soviet Union. People are willing to die for this book, but on the other side of the coin there are agents prepared to kill for it too!

Set both in the East and the West, our two main protagonists Sally Forrester and Irina Drozdov work in the CIA typing pool, a very male dominated env
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)

I am going to change my rating on this book to a 3.5 rounded up to a 4 star book. I love books about spies, particularly women spies so I had really high expectations for this book. I had some problems with the flow, back and forth between what was happening with the author of Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, in the East and what was going on in the West, centering on the CIA and how it planned to use the book as a “weapon” against the Soviets.

All in
Chaima ✨ شيماء
the amount of books I want to read disproportionately outweighs the available space I have for books AND the amount of money I have in my bank account 😩
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Taking place during the pinnacle of the Cold War, accomplished and well educated women were relegated to the typing pool at the CIA by the old boy network while their male counterparts began careers. Two unique women whom excel at keeping secrets become spies tasked with obtaining the manuscript of Dr. Zhivago for publication in the west since the Soviet State finds the content offensive and will not publish. Moving between the east and the west there are two love stories, dangerous missions and ...more
Sep 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
DNF’d at 38%

I was expecting a suspenseful spy novel, but what I got was thinly disguised romance/chick-lit. It's all too common with historical fiction in recent years, and why I struggle with the genre.

The love affair between Pasternak and Olga left me cold, the alternating narratives in the West chapters were confusing, the secretarial pool characters lacked depth, and the writing style was simplistic. Frankly, I was bored silly.
Nilufer Ozmekik
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it

Here we go! A thrilling espionage story about secret spy typist women agents at the Cold War era, shaping around creating process of Doctor Zhivago and its writer’s tumultuous, mind-blowing love story with his muse and mistress Olga! Da! Count me in! Already opened a new bottle of Chardonnay to being accompanied with this page-turner! Nazdarovya!

So CIA captures the copies of Doctor Zhivago and uses thi

”Sometimes they’d refer to us not by name but by hair color or body type: Blondie, Red, Tits. We had our secret names for them, too: Grabber, Coffee Breath, Teeth.
“They would call us girls, but we were not.
“We came to the Agency by way of Radcliffe, Vassar, Smith. We were the first daughters of our families to earn degrees. Some of us spoke Mandarin. Some could fly plans. Some of us could handle a Colt 1873 better than John Wayne. But all we were asked when interviewed was ‘Can you type?’”

Kate Quinn
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Got a chance to read this one for a cover quote, and I will definitely be offering one. It's terrific!
Sep 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Well I made it up to the 62% point until I flung this book into the dnf pile. I am pretty annoyed that what I thought I was reading, a spy drama concerning the bringing of the book Dr Zhivago to the west and publishing it as a cautionary tale against a totalitarian regime, became nothing but a chick lit story.

What is happening to the historical fiction genre when fictional characters are so included that they ruin a wonderful premise and make it into something that is barely historical and major
Picture Mad Men set in the early days of the CIA with an equal dose of historical fiction at the sunset of Stalin's reign over the Soviet Union. I found both sections highly engaging and couldn't flip the pages fast enough. I was a little unsure if I would like this book given that so much of it was focused on Dr. Zhivago (which I haven't read yet, but it's been on my shelf since my Russian History college days so now I will definitely read it soon), so I didn't know if a lot of it would go over ...more
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, i-own-it
I went into this book knowing very little about it and very little about the subject matter. I've never read Doctor Zhivago, but that doesn't matter for this book. It's about the mission that the U.S. government put on in the 1950's to disseminate propaganda, in the form of anti-Soviet literature, within the Soviet Union. The novel puts, at its forefront, female typists in the U.S. government, some of whom are covert agents assisting in the mission.

The writing is fairly straight forward but st
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think it was possible to write a novel containing spies that completely lacks mystery or intrigue, but alas. So much promise, but it completely falls flat since it leans on totally hollow characters.
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

TW: Sexual assault and some homophobia

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers/author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In the late 1950s, the CIA published Russian copies of Doctor Zhivago and smuggled them behind the Iron Curtain in order to spark an unrest among Soviet citizens. In The Secrets We Kept, Lara Prescott explores the women who may have helped the mission, as well as the intriguing relationship between Russian author Boris Pasternak and
Aug 27, 2019 rated it liked it

Much has been said about this book, it has been ‘hyped’ ( not a great word but its as it is ) and spoken about as ‘THE book of the year’ and various other platitudes
The book is all about ( trying to keep this as simple as can ) Doctor Zhivago, the author of it, his lover, how the book was banned and how America managed to get the book published and into Russia ( all based on fact ) intermingled with fiction re the ‘spies’ of the 1950’s, the ‘typists’ of the American Govt, who saw all and said no
Literary Soirée
I first saw this book, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, on NetGalley and knew I had to read it. What a joy to find glorious historical fiction not set during WW II.

Prescott’s debut novel occurs during the Cold War, with chapters that flip between the CIA in the States and Russia — where Boris Pasternak (author of DR. ZHIVAGO) and lover Olga (inspiration for the character Lara), struggle to get his masterpiece published.

NYT critic Janet Maslin cal
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

There’s no secret that the Secrets We Kept is going to be a big hit this fall. It’s one of those books that I imagine publishers dream about – filled with true-to-life intrigue, touching upon little-known history, and presenting real-life and fictional characters that readers really care about.

Like most people, I’ve seen the movie Dr. Zhivago multiple times and it has never failed to captivate me (interestingly, I minored in Russian literature but never read the book). Although I was aware that
(3.5) It’s the latest Reese Witherspoon book club selection and film rights have been sold to the producers of La La Land; if you haven’t already heard about The Secrets We Kept, you’ll be hearing a lot more soon. Prescott’s debut novel is an offbeat spy thriller set mostly in the 1950s and based on the international reception of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Considered to express anti-Soviet opinions, Pasternak’s love story is suppressed in his native country but published widely in Western ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall: An interesting and gripping historical-fiction drama told from multiple perspectives centered on the novel Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.

Summary: This book is based on the true revelation in 2014 that the CIA used Dr. Zhivago to spread the message about life under communism in the Soviet Union. It is told from multiple perspectives with two of them being young woman who work as spies (Irina and Sally) during the height of the Cold War. They become involved with the CIA's plan to get c
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absorbing, multi-voiced spy novel centering around women working for the CIA in the 1950s- a young secretary soon recruited for more cloak and dagger work, an actual female "sparrow" posing as a receptionist, and the Greek Chorus of the typing pool-played against the relationship of Boris Pasternak and Olga Ivinskaya, Pasternak's great love, mistress, emissary and the model for Lara in Zhivago. The CIA used whatever came to hand, including literature and the arts, as a weapon in its task of d ...more
Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)
I know. I know. I'm supposed to love this book more than I do. I've heard nothing but great things and have seen praises about this everywhere. It's even a Reese's Book Club selection and Book Expo Book Pick. The thing is, historical fiction is either a huge hit or a complete miss for me. This one kind of fell in the middle.

I loved the way the chapter headings made it easy to follow whose POV we were now seeing. The story of the typists, spies and the true story of Doctor Zhivago and how this ba
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well written, fictional account of the way a novel, “Dr Zhivago,” became a political bombshell; used by the West as a propaganda tool. The novel begins with the arrest of Boris Pasternak’s pregnant mistress, his muse and the inspiration for Lara, Olga Ivinskaya. As Pasternak, against threats and fears of retribution, continues work on what will become his masterpiece, the West are interested in rumours of this book.

To my mind, the parts of the novel which worked best, were the scenes f
Mellie Antoinette
Boy! That title! Who doesn’t love a good secret?!?

Stunning. From the first note hastily plucked on a typewriter’s keys to the last words handwritten on bartered paper. Like many, I have already picked up Doctor Zhivago for a re-read.

Having lived in Russia for a brief period, I remember Pasternak’s opus magnus as still being ‘secretly’ discussed — In stories of book smuggling and whispered reviews; in terms of progressive thoughts and revisionist history. And yet, I firmly believe that it is not
Kristen Suire
I got to page 200 and decided to quit on this one. The story was just too all over the place, too many characters with odd names, it was hard to keep them all straight... story was also told from random point of views that weren’t very clear cut on who was talking until half way into a chapter and then I felt like I missed a lot of what was going on.
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
2.5 - I’m in the minority of GR readers on this book, but I barely got through it. The writing was simplistic, the characters two dimensional, and the story often warped into melodrama, especially during the Russian chapters. Didn’t care about any of it.
Bella Jones
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can honestly say this is the best book I’ve read this year. This is a literary thriller in the form of fiction non-fiction. That is, it is a story about true, factually documented events, but with a fictional interpretation as to some details in order to round it out.

The book begins at the dawn of the 1950s and takes it in turns, a few chapters at a time, to tell the story from two perspectives: East and West. In the West we have Irina, born in the US to a mother who escaped from Russia. Her F
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
The true stories about Olga and Pasternak were undoubtedly the best parts and interesting to read. The parts with the typists seemed disjointed and extraneous to the focal story...and there was so much of it. Did this part add to the Dr. Zhivago backstory? I think not. What was its purpose? What part was fictional and what part historical? I worry about nationally-known family names being harmed by what may be gossip.
I hope readers will also read “Dr. Zhivago’ as a stand-alone, romantic Russian
Neelam Babul
Sep 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I was excited to read this book after finding that it was selected by Reese Witherspoon for her book club read of the month.

Lara Prescott weaves a fascinating tale of espionage during the Cold War using Boris Pasternak’s book, Dr Zhivago as the premises for her thriller. Dr Zhivago was banned in Pasternak’s homeland, the Soviet Union. People are willing to die for this book, but on the other hand there are agents prepared to kill for it.

Set both in the East and the West, our two main protagoni
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Preferred the story line and espionage that followed the female CIA 'Typists' in the West to the Eastern plot which I found redundant and slow going. Outcomes of the characters in the West were a little too vague for my taste. Overall, a good, well-researched novel.
Roman Clodia
They had their satellites, but we had their books. Back then, we believed books could be weapons - that literature could change the course of history.

This is a fictionalised telling of a fascinating true story that pitched the CIA in a battle against the Soviet authorities over Pasternak's Dr Zhivago. Sadly, as I'd read some of the same sources as the author (The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book, 'The Pasternak Affair', Anna Pasternak's Lara: The Untol
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: e-arcs
Thank you to the publisher, via Edelweiss, for providing me with an arc of this book.

The Secrets we Kept starts off interesting, with the collective voice of the typists setting the stage for what's to come. The true story of the publication of Doctor Zhivago is fascinating, and the focus of much of the book, with slight detours into story lines of fictional characters.
I would've happily read about Boris and Olga, or have enjoyed fleshed out stories of Sally, Irina, and Teddy but all of these p
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Reese's Book Club...: What did you think? 5 470 Oct 07, 2019 04:48PM  
Reese's Book Club...: Little Known History 2 338 Sep 26, 2019 11:11PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Combine Editions - "The Secrets We Kept" by Lara Prescott 2 16 Jul 29, 2019 12:45AM  
Lara Prescott's debut novel, THE SECRETS WE KEPT, is out September 3, 2019 from Alfred A. Knopf (US) and Hutchinson (UK), and will be translated into 29 languages.

Lara received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas in 2018. She grew up in Pennsylvania and studied political science at American University in Washington, D.C. Prior to writing fiction, Lara worked as
“I wanted them to take a good hard look at a system that had allowed the State to kill off any writer, any intellectual—hell, even any meteorologist—they disagreed with.” 1 likes
“If you were to come to Headquarters and see a woman in a smart green tweed suit following a man into his office or a woman wearing red heels and a matching angora sweater at reception, you might've assumed these women were typists or secretaries; and you would've been right. But you would have also been wrong. Secretary: a person entrusted with a secret. From the Latin secretus, secretum. We all typed, but some of us did more. We spoke no word of the work we did after we covered our typewriters each day. Unlike some of the men, we could keep our secrets.” 1 likes
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