Sometimes you read a book so amazing, you just want to cherish it and keep it a secret so that no one else’s opinions of it can ruin everything you loved. That’s how I felt about The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice.
But then I realized that beautiful things are not meant to be hidden away. This was one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It was another book that made me stay up late into the evening when I shouldn’t have. It was one of those books where I was constantly going, just fifteen more minutes, thirty more minutes, an hour longer because I couldn’t put it down. I’m still experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Here is the blurb from Goodreads:
Set in 1950s London, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets centers around Penelope, the wide- eyed daughter of a legendary beauty, Talitha, who lost her husband to the war. Penelope, with her mother and brother, struggles to maintain their vast and crumbling ancestral home—while postwar London spins toward the next decade’s cultural revolution. Penelope wants nothing more than to fall in love, and when her new best friend, Charlotte, a free spirit in the young society set, drags Penelope into London with all of its grand parties, she sets in motion great change for them all. Charlotte’s mysterious and attractive brother Harry uses Penelope to make his American ex-girlfriend jealous, with unforeseen consequences, and a dashing, wealthy American movie producer arrives with what might be the key to Penelope’s— and her family’s—future happiness.
Vibrant, witty, and filled with vivid historical detail, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is an utterly unique debut novel about a time and place just slipping into history.
Like always, I didn’t read the blurb before I read the book since I like to be completely surprised. I delved into this lovely world and its complicated cast of characters without any expectations, and was always pleasantly introduced to people and places and shops and clothes that brought me to a different world. I wish I could go to teas at Aunt Clare’s and go shopping for Dior and fall in love with rich, handsome men.
While I love young adult novels, I’ve never been a fan of young adult romance novels or the New Adult genre that’s popped up recently. I prefer reading about teenagers who have magical powers, are fighting evil forces, or otherwise saving the world. Teenagers falling in fictional love always seemed so fickle to me (even though my own marriage was born during my teenage years 😛 ). I had also just finished reading a New Adult novel which left me feeling more frustrated than anything [ONLY TO FIND OUT THAT THERE’S A SEQUEL. Now I have to read it because I don’t like leaving things unfinished].
It was difficult to remember that the characters in this book were still teens. There was something sophisticated about Penelope, but also vulnerable. The person she would become was already there, but she had to be hurt and challenged in order to become her. In a way, we’re all like that, a little lost and insecure, waiting for life to pummel us into the shape we’re meant to be.
It’s also cool and at the same time not-so-cool to have a best friend who is prettier and more experienced and daring and amazing than you. Then again, why would you want to hang out with anyone who doesn’t challenge you to improve and be a better version of yourself? Not different, just better. I think Charlotte grabbing Penelope’s hand at a random bus station was the best thing that could have happened to either of them.
So I’m a sucker for romance. I burnt myself out reading too many romance books one year and thought maybe I should give it up. But then there are novels that aren’t explicitly romantic, but the love story will sneak itself in there, which makes it all the better.
Harry totally came off as an asshole at the beginning. He continued to treat Penelope pretty callously throughout the book, but even in those moments of “meanness” he had his way of being sweet to her and knowing her in ways no one else could. Her attraction to him sort of snuck up on her secretly and before she knew it, she was falling in love with him. Which is totally my favorite sort of love story. It probably started when he gave her the guinea pig. Maybe I am a total sucker, but the fact that you later find out he was actually altruistic and one of those dudes who came off as an ass but really was a good guy all along totally got to me. I saw a bit of Mr. Darcy in him.
I also loved the fact that they didn’t just get together right away when Marina didn’t work out for him after all. He realistically spend time away so that they could have their own relationship, isolated from the incidents that had forced them together.
The only weird part about the book, honestly, was when Penelope’s crush Rocky ended up with her mother. Like I totally saw that coming since he was forty-five and probably more in her mother’s age range. Just the fact that he was her love interest first kind of killed that for me.
Seriously, everything was perfect about this book. It’s always risky to rate anything 5/5 stars, but I think this book deserves it.