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The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice

By Rusty | Books | October 12, 2009 |

By Rusty | Books | October 12, 2009 |

I picked up this novel because the title is one indefinite article away from being a Queens of the Stone Age song that I quite like. It turns out that The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, written by Eva Rice (daughter of Tim Rice for any other music geeks out there), is about a generation that often seems to get left out of literature and other entertainment; the generation who grew up during World War II. We hear a lot about the Boomers who came after, and ‘The Greatest Generation’ who saw through both World Wars, but little attention gets paid to the children who grew up knowing only a life where daddy was overseas and food was always rationed*. The main character in this book, Penelope, is an 18 year old British girl whose father died in the War and who now lives with her mother and younger brother in an ancient estate that’s crumbling around their ears due to lack of money. There was a time when Penelope’s life would have been defined and lived comfortably merely by the fact of her social status, family history, and land holdings, but the post-war 1950s were not that time.

The book starts with a chance meeting between Penelope and Charlotte, who drags Penelope into a cab with her so that Charlotte doesn’t have to go to tea with her Aunt Clare by herself. From there, Penelope begins a fast and deep friendship with the glamorous and impulsive Charlotte and Charlotte’s strange cousin, Harry. From the beginning, it’s clear that Aunt Clare knows a little more about Penelope than Penelope does about her, but it’s not revealed until the end what that knowledge is. The book mostly takes place over winter into spring of 1955.

It’s difficult to describe the plot because most of it boils down to interactions between characters. Conversations between Penelope and her family, parties she attends with Charlotte and Harry, a chance encounter with a handsome American man on the train, etc. There’s no overarching action to speak of. However, the book does deal in one literary cliché that I’ve never been a fan of, which is having a female character spend almost the entire book talking about how she’s not in love with a male character while those around her roll their eyes … only for that female character to realize at the end that she really and truly is in love. Aside from that, though, it’s an interesting book and enjoyable enough as something of a light fluffy escapist read.

*Anyone else who read the American Girl Doll books will know that the story of Molly concerns just this time period, but I genuinely can’t think of any others off the top of my head.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Genny (now just Rusty)’s review, check her blog, Rusty’s Ventures.