2009: 3. The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

“I met Charlotte in London one afternoon while waiting for a bus.  Just look at that sentence!”

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, Eva Rice


I suggested this as January’s book club book because I was looking for something that was not too taxing, but still respectable, and this turned out to  be the perfect choice.  It is the story of Penelope Wallace (actually Lady Penelope, though not too much is made of that), an impoverished noblewoman (or rather an impoverished eighteen year old girl), whose family owns a stately home of England, but one that is falling apart since her father died in the war hot on the heals of her grandparents and the death duties were too much to take - particularly when the house was used by the troops during the War and was largely destroyed.  She and her mother and brother are doing their best to keep afloat while she tries to figure out what to do with herself.  On her way home from a wan Italian lesson she meets Charlotte, who introduces her to a more interesting type of society.  In between she falls in love, moons over Johnny Ray (a precursor to Elvis), tries to ferret out the mysterious secret between her mother and Charlotte’s glamourous aunt, and does her best to grow up in post-War England.  


What I liked about the book was the way that that Rice made the time period come alive.  She captured what it was like to be that first post war generation - to have grown up with depravation, and to be entering a world where rationing was finally ending, and where the first generations of teenagers were coming into existence.  It was nicely done.  What I didn’t love was the plot, which either was so obvious you could have seen it from Mars, or so out of left field that it didn’t really hold up for me.  But the characters were fun, and so was the setting, and this was a debut novel, so if you’re looking for light escapist reading that won’t embarrass you (i.e., class chick lit), I recommend this wholeheartedly.


Date/Place Completed: 1/4/09

Categories: Fiction; Book Club

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017