The Secrets We Kept: A novel (Paperback)
September 2019 Indie Next List
“This perfect historical novel is made of the most alluring ingredients. First, a divine and doomed love affair between Russian author Boris Pasternak and his muse and secretary, Olga Ivinskaya, a woman immortalized in Pasternak’s epic novel Doctor Zhivago, which was banned in Russia for more than 30 years. Second, two American women typists working for CIA and their forbidden love story in the midst of the Cold War and the witch hunt against homosexuals. Lara Prescott brilliantly portrays how a timeless novel like Doctor Zhivago can change course of history. After I finished reading The Secrets We Kept, I pressed the book against my chest, as if I could hear the lovers’ hearts still beating.”
— Aggie Zivaljevic, Kepler's Books, Menlo Park, CA
Summer 2020 Reading Group Indie Next List
“A fast-paced and fascinating novel about the women behind the CIA’s plan to use Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago as a weapon against the Soviet system. The story moves easily from East to West and from the lives of the women who supported and inspired Pasternak to the women who helped get his banned book into Soviet readers’ hands.”
— Margo Grimm Eule, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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 • A HELLO SUNSHINE x REESE WITHERSPOON BOOK CLUB PICK
At the height of the Cold War, Irina, a young Russian-American secretary, is plucked from the CIA typing pool and given the assignment of a lifetime. Her mission: to help smuggle Doctor Zhivago into the USSR, where it is banned, and enable Boris Pasternak’s magnum opus to make its way into print around the world. Mentoring Irina is the glamorous Sally Forrester: a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit, using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Under Sally’s tutelage, Irina learns how to invisibly ferry classified documents—and discovers deeply buried truths about herself.
The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who inspired Zhivago’s heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. Told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail, this is an unforgettable debut: a celebration of the powerful belief that a work of art can change the world.
About the Author
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.
"A gorgeous and romantic feast of a novel anchored by a cast of indelible secretaries."
—The New York Times
"Enthralling... This is the rare page-turner with prose that's as wily as its plot."
"Proto-feminist Mad Men transposed to the world of international espionage—all midcentury style and intrigue set against real, indelible history.”
"Prescott clearly had fun crafting this story, and the result is a novel that’s a delight to read — and a secret worth sharing."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"The Secrets We Kept is simply sensational. Two gripping narratives unfold in the pressure cooker of the Cold War: passionate, courageous Olga who stands in the shadow of Soviet author Boris Pasternak yet inspires him to write a heroine for the ages, and the cynical, equally-overshadowed women of the CIA who help bring Pasternak's masterpiece Dr. Zhivago to bear as a weapon against Soviet oppression. From the gulags of the USSR to the cherry blossom trees of Washington DC, the story grips and refuses to let go. Lara Prescott is a star in the making."
—Kate Quinn, New York Times Bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network
"Prescott crafts a cloak-and-dagger story of passion, espionage, and propaganda."
—The Wall Street Journal
"A page-turner that is at once a spy thriller, historical fiction and heartfelt romance...A thumping good story."
—The Columbus Dispatch
"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."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A whirlwind of storytelling. In Prescott’s supremely talented hands, the result is no less than endlessly fascinating, often deliciously fun as well as heartbreaking.
The Secrets We Kept is a dazzling, beguiling debut."
—BookPage (starred review)
"Delightful... An intriguing and little-known chapter of literary history is brought to life with brio."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Epic in scope, deliciously meaty, and utterly convincing.”
—Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
“Stylish, thrilling, smart, vivid.”
—Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck & Other Stories
“Provocative, haunting and a damn good read.”
—H.W. Brands, author of The First American
“A first-rate novel, and it signals the arrival of a major new writer.”
—Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This
“One of the most unique and devastating novels [I have] read in years.”
—Deb Olin Unferth, author of Minor Robberies