Martin's Must Reads: 'The Secrets We Kept'

Sep 8, 2020

The book Doctor Zhivago was first published in Italy in 1957 after being smuggled out of Russia.  It was several years later and after Stalin’s death when it would be published in Pasternak’s country, Russia. 

Lara Prescott’s novel The Secrets We Kept takes place between 1949 and 1961 -- alternating between characters in the East and the West. The chapters that take place in the East revolve around Boris Pasternak’s writing and his mistress and muse, Olga. She served as his editor and promoter both before and after her years in a Gulag, imprisoned there for her unwillingness to divulge the plot of his book and only released after Stalin died.

The chapters on the West revolve around a group of women who work as typists at the CIA who is fighting the Cold War through literature that brings to light how the Russians treat their people. It’s at a Worlds Fair that the Americans disseminate Russian copies of Pasternak’s book to the Russian people who take it back and feed it to the masses. Some of the typists work as agents gathering information and secretly transporting the book to publishers.

Once the CIA finally sets in motion the English translation of the book one agent says, “May our literary weapon of mass destruction make the monster squeal.” Pasternak was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, but was forced to refuse it. Until reading this I didn’t know that Dr. Zhivago was more than just a great story.

If you’re interested in the history of a  classic book and movie that “had the power to change the world,” then you must read The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott.