Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

{September 12, 2019}   {Audible Review} The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott, narrated by Carlotta Brentan, et. al.

From Goodreads : 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.


I’m not usually a historical fiction reader, but The Secrets We Kept was an absolutely phenomenal read that had me glued to the pages from the very beginning. Told from the viewpoint of multiple people during the height of the Cold War, readers embark into the world of spies, revolutionaries, double agents, and their secretaries. A mix of love stories and spy work, Lara Prescott fills readers in on the true story of how the CIA smuggled Dr. Zhivago back into Russia as a way to bring down the Communists from the inside. Though the dialog is imagined, especially the Typists sections — those brave woman back from WWII delegated to secretarial work instead of the field where they belong, now that the men are home from the war — the people and events are real.

Prescott is a very talented writer, and I loved the flow of the novel, jumping from character to character as the novel unfolds, allowing the reader to get to know all the key players, from the spies, Sally and Irina, to the Russian lovers, Olga and Boris, to even the secretaries, seamlessly tying the story together as each character shares their take on events. The Audible version actually employs multiple narrators in order to keep each person’s story separate, and I loved have male and female narrators accordingly. They expertly read their parts, and I easily got lost in their tales as they shared the story with me. If you have Audible, I highly suggest listening to this novel that way; it made it that much more real and compelling for me.

I haven’t fully read Dr. Zhivago, though I tried immediately after finishing this novel, as I wanted to see what all the hype was about back in the late 1950s, however, that story wasn’t for me. Yet, whether or not you’ve read Dr. Zhivago has no baring on your ability to keep up with this whirlwind of espionage that Prescott so masterfully fleshes out for the reader. I spent a good few hours after completing this novel looking up the characters and learning just how well Prescott did mirroring the situations and adding dialogue that perfectly matches events, and yet captivates readers at the same time.

Truth be told, the synopsis above tells it best. This is a powerful novel, and I highly suggest you move it up the reading pile so it’s next on your list. Five stars.

I purchased this novel from Audible.

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