The Secrets We Kept Book Summary

A novel

by Lara Prescott8


A thrilling Cold War-era tale of secretaries-turned-spies tasked with smuggling Doctor Zhivago into the USSR, blending historical intrigue and literary romance.

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What is The Secrets We Kept about

The Secrets We Kept, a debut novel by Lara Prescott, delves into the covert CIA operation during the Cold War aimed at smuggling Boris Pasternak's banned masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago, into the Soviet Union. Set against a backdrop of espionage and romance, the story follows Irina, a young Russian-American secretary, and Sally Forrester, a seasoned spy, as they navigate a world of deceit and danger. The novel intricately combines the real-life affair between Pasternak and his muse, Olga Ivinskaya, with the fictionalized espionage activities, delivering a narrative rich in historical detail and emotional depth.

The Secrets We Kept 7 Key Takeaways

Irina's Recruitment

At the height of the Cold War, the CIA recruits Irina, a young Russian-American secretary, from its typing pool for a high-stakes mission.

Mentorship by Sally Forrester

Irina is mentored by Sally Forrester, a seasoned spy who teaches her the art of espionage, from ferrying classified documents to leveraging charm for secrets.

The Mission

Their mission is to smuggle Doctor Zhivago into the USSR, where it is banned, to influence hearts and minds through Pasternak's forbidden love story.

Olga Ivinskaya’s Plight

The novel also explores the real-life affair between Boris Pasternak and his muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who inspired the character Lara and suffered immense personal sacrifice.

Espionage and Self-Discovery

As Irina delves deeper into her undercover role, she uncovers hidden aspects of her own identity and capabilities.

The Smuggling Success

The climax revolves around the successful smuggling of Doctor Zhivago, highlighting the risks and rewards of their dangerous mission.

Legacy of Doctor Zhivago

The book ends on the note of Doctor Zhivago’s impact, not just on Soviet society but on the world, emphasizing the power of art in geopolitical conflicts.

The Secrets We Kept Best Reviews

  • “A gorgeous and romantic feast of a novel anchored by a cast of indelible secretaries turned spies, a Cold War–era mission to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, and a love story for the ages.” —Entertainment Weekly
  • “Prescott clearly did her homework, as the expertly researched, artfully told narrative is filled with the kind of rich, historic detail that makes this book an immersive experience.” —Associated Press

Top The Secrets We Kept Quotes

  • “Sometimes the most heroic act is the one we don’t do.”
  • “A book can be a weapon, a message, and a way to change the world.”

Who should read The Secrets We Kept?

Fans of historical fiction, espionage thrillers, and literary dramas will find The Secrets We Kept captivating. Readers interested in Cold War history and the power of literature in political discourse will particularly appreciate the novel’s depth and insight.

About the Author

Lara Prescott, a former political campaign consultant, turned novelist, burst onto the literary scene with her debut, The Secrets We Kept. Drawing on her background in political science, Prescott crafts intricate narratives that blend historical fact with fiction. Her work has garnered critical acclaim, making her a notable voice in contemporary literature.

The Secrets We Kept FAQs

What are the secrets we kept about?

The novel revolves around two CIA secretaries tasked with smuggling Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR to ensure its publication, blending historical events with a narrative of espionage and romance.

Is the book The Secrets We Kept a true story?

While the characters Sally and Irina are fictional, the CIA's covert efforts to distribute Doctor Zhivago during the Cold War are based on true events, revealed through declassified documents.

What is the book The Secrets We Keep about?

The Secrets We Kept interweaves the real-life love affair between Boris Pasternak and Olga Ivinskaya with the fictional account of two women engaged in high-stakes espionage to promote Pasternak's banned work.