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The Secrets We Kept

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  13,252 ratings  ·  1,641 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
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.…moreI 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. (less)
Daisy Peter Finn and Petra Couvée's The Zhivago Affair
Olga Invinskaya's A Captive of Time
Sergio D'Angelo's The Pasternak Affair
Elizabeth Peet McIntosh's…more
Peter Finn and Petra Couvée's The Zhivago Affair
Olga Invinskaya's A Captive of Time
Sergio D'Angelo's The Pasternak Affair
Elizabeth Peet McIntosh's Sisterhood of Spies
David K. Johnson's The Lavender Scare

Inside the Zhivago Storm and Zhivago's Secret Journey by Paolo Mancosu
Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner
The Agency by John Ranelagh
The Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders
The Georgetown Set by Gregg Herken
The Very Best Men by Evan Thomas
Hot Books in the Cold War by Alfred A. Reisch
The Spy and his CIA Brat by Carol Cini
Finks by Joel Whitney
Washington Confidential by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer
Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe
Feltrinelli by Carlo Feltrinelli and Alastair McEwen
*Lara by Anna Pasternak*
Safe Conduct by Boris Pasternak
Boris Pasternak: The Tragic Years, 1930-60 by Evgeny Pasternak
Boris Pasternak: The Poet and His Politics by Lazar Fleischman
Boris Pasternak: A Literary Biography by Christopher Barnes
Boris Pasternak: Family Correspondence translated by Nicholas Pasternak Slater and Maya Slater
Fear and the Muse Kept Watch by Andy McSmith
The Nobel Prize by Yuri Krotkov
Inside the Soviet Writers' Union by Carol and John Garrard

(*I read this before The Secret We Kept and I loved it.)(less)

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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  13,252 ratings  ·  1,641 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
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 ...more
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
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.
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
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

”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
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.
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
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
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it, 2019
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
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
Julie Christine
Brilliant. Just brilliant. Everything about this novel, from its premise — a fictionalized account of the true plot by the CIA to thwart communism through "cultural diplomacy"— to its the multiplicity of perspectives, including the Greek chorus CIA typing pool, the haunted Olga Vsevolodovna Ivinskaya, imprisoned in a Gulag for her involvement with famed writer Boris Pasternak, the "Mad Men"-esque characters of Cold War Washington D.C., and their fashions, passions, parties — to the women who ...more
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.
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
/ 5

I want to start out by saying I was SUPER excited about The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott. Give me badass women, spies, and the CIA any day! However, I found this to be more of a tale of forbidden love which wasn't what I was expecting and honestly pretty disappointing.

I did really enjoy how everything ties back to the book Doctor Zhivago in this novel, and I think Prescott did an amazing job of weaving this highly complex story together. There were a decent number of viewpoints and I
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
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
(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
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
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
4 Dr. Zhivago and Lara stars

The plot of this one was intriguing to me and I’m glad I spotted it at the library. I’ve read Doctor Zhivago and seen the movie, so that made it especially appealing.

Set during the cold war era, this book has two separate storylines – the first centers on female spies (and the typing pool) at the CIA and the other storyline is Boris Pasternak and the muse that inspired Lara – Olga. So often the storylines merge or connect in some way toward the end of the book. That
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 ...more
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
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.
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
Britta Böhler
Those who expect a straight forward spy novel might be disappointed, but I loved it.
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
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mom-2019, 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
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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
“We unveil ourselves in the pieces we want others to know, even those closest to us. We all have our secrets.” 1 likes
“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
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