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The secrets we kept
2019
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A tale of spycraft, love and sacrifice inspired by the true story of Doctor Zhivago follows the efforts of two CIA agents to help publish Boris Pasternak’s censored masterpiece against a backdrop of Cold War politics in Moscow. - (Baker & Taylor)

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 
A HELLO SUNSHINE x REESE WITHERSPOON BOOK CLUB PICK


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 the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak's magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world--using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally's tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.

The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story--the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago's heroine, Lara--with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. From Pasternak's country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature--told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world. - (Random House, Inc.)

Author Biography

LARA PRESCOTT received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, Austin. She was previously an animal protection advocate and a political campaign operative. Her stories have appeared in The Southern Review, The Hudson Review, Crazyhorse, Day One, and Tin House Flash Fridays. She won the 2016 Crazyhorse Fiction Prize for the first chapter of The Secrets We Kept. She lives in Austin, Texas. - (Random House, Inc.)

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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Spy stories offer high reader appeal, and Prescott's debut far surpasses the typical genre fare. In her novel, set during the post-WWII Cold War era, East seldom meets West, but events in each influence the other deeply. Through extensive research, Prescott artfully illuminates the CIA's role in helping disseminate the Soviet-banned Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. That novel, smuggled into and printed in Italy, found wide acclaim and earned its author a Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, as the Soviets launch satellites and chase scientific discoveries, the CIA takes a literary approach, choosing to change hearts and minds with literature. To that end, they trained women to deliver messages and ferret secrets from powerful men. Two such woman are Irina, an American with deep ties to Russia, and beautiful, mysterious Sally; both women have secrets of their own to conceal. Prescott, herself named after Doctor Zhivago's heroine, does a masterful job of spanning continents and juggling shifting points of view, but readers may wish to keep notes to remember who's who. Cold War buffs or those familiar with Pasternak's tour-de-force and its adaptations will find this book especially enticing. Those new to the story will still be intrigued, and perhaps want to seek out the original. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Spy stories offer high reader appeal, and Prescott's debut far surpasses the typical genre fare. In her novel, set during the post-WWII Cold War era, East seldom meets West, but events in each influence the other deeply. Through extensive research, Prescott artfully illuminates the CIA's role in helping disseminate the Soviet-banned Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. That novel, smuggled into and printed in Italy, found wide acclaim and earned its author a Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, as the Soviets launch satellites and chase scientific discoveries, the CIA takes a literary approach, choosing to change hearts and minds with literature. To that end, they trained women to deliver messages and ferret secrets from powerful men. Two such woman are Irina, an American with deep ties to Russia, and beautiful, mysterious Sally; both women have secrets of their own to conceal. Prescott, herself named after Doctor Zhivago's heroine, does a masterful job of spanning continents and juggling shifting points of view, but readers may wish to keep notes to remember who's who. Cold War buffs or those familiar with Pasternak's tour-de-force and its adaptations will find this book especially enticing. Those new to the story will still be intrigued, and perhaps want to seek out the original. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

Inspired by the true story of the role of Dr. Zhivago in the Cold War: a novel of espionage in the West, resistance in the East, and grand passions on both sides. "We typed a hundred words a minute and never missed a syllable....Our fingers flew across the keys. Our clacking was constant. We'd pause only to answer the phone or to take a drag of a cigarette; some of us managed to master both without missing a beat." Prescott's debut features three individual heroines and one collective one—the typing pool at the Agency (the then relatively new CIA), which acts as a smart, snappy Greek chorus as the action of the novel progresses, also providing delightful description and commentary on D.C. life in the 1950s. The other three are Irina, a young Russian American who is hired despite her slow typing because other tasks are planned for her; Sally, an experienced spy who is charged with training Irina and ends up falling madly in love with her; and Olga, the real-life mistress of Boris Pasternak, whose devotion to the married author sent her twice to the gulag and dwarfed everything else in her life, including her two children. Well-res earched and cleverly constructed, the novel shifts back and forth between the Soviet Union and Washington, beginning with Olga's first arrest in 1949—"When the men in the black suits came, my daughter offered them tea"—and moving through the smuggling of the Soviet-suppressed manuscript of Dr. Zhivago out of Russia all the way up to the release of the film version in 1965. Despite the passionate avowals and heroics, the love affair of Olga and Boris never quite catches fire. But the Western portions of the book—the D.C. gossip, the details of spy training, and the lesbian affair—really sing. An intriguing and little-known chapter of literary history is brought to life with brio. Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Prescott's triumphant debut offers a fresh perspective on women employed by the CIA during the 1950s and their role in disseminating into the Soviet Union copies of Dr. Zhivago,Boris Pasternak's banned masterpiece. In 1956, American-born Irina Drozdova gets a job at the CIA ostensibly as a typist but is destined for fieldwork. Former OSS agent Sally Forrester trains Irina in spycraft. Meanwhile, inside the Soviet Union, Boris Pasternak's lover, Olga Vsevolodovna, is interrogated about Pasternak's work in progress, Dr. Zhivago. After three years in a prison camp, she reunites with Pasternak, who, unable to publish in the Soviet Union, entrusts his novel to an Italian publisher's representative. Back in Washington, Irina, now engaged to a male agent but in love with Sally, seeks assignment overseas. Dressed as a nun, she places copies of Dr. Zhivago, printed in the original Russian for the CIA, into the hands of Soviet citizens visiting the Vienna World's Fair. Through lucid images and vibrant storytelling, Prescott creates an edgy postfeminist vision of the Cold War, encompassing Sputnik to glasnost, typing pool to gulag, for a smart, lively page-turner. This debut shines as spy story, publication thriller, and historical romance with a twist. 200,000-copy announced first printing. (Sept.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

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