The Secrets We Kept

Knopf. Sept. 2019. 368p. ISBN 9780525656159. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525656166. F
DEBUT Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago, banned in the Soviet Union, was smuggled out to an Italian publisher in 1957, when the book became a literary sensation in the West. In the United States, the work became a propaganda tool for the CIA. Prescott’s exciting novel begins with the women who work in the agency’s typing pool. Among these “gals” in Washington (“The West”) are the young Russian American Irina and the sophisticated Sally, whose secretarial careers have turned into something a great deal more dangerous. Back in Moscow (“The East”), historical characters include Pasternak himself and his longtime lover Olga, the inspiration for Lara in his novel. Olga pays the highest price, spending years in the Gulag, a reminder of just how grim the Soviet years were. This rich and well-researched narrative has an almost epic sweep, with alternating dramatic plots involving spies and espionage, many fascinating characters (both historical and fictional) from East and West, and a gifted writer and storyteller to tie it all together.
VERDICT For a debut novelist, Prescott writes with astonishing assurance, enthralling readers with tales of secret agents and intrigue, love, and betrayal. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/4/19.]
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