The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets – Eva Rice

If I had to use one word to describe this book, it would be charming. Not in the sarcastic way that has been adopted over the years though – in the way it was originally meant. Given that I don’t tend to read reviews of books before I read them, I didn’t really have any idea of what this book was about. I’d just seen it knocking around in various supermarkets and bookshops, and finally gave in. I was expecting more chick-lit, to be honest. It could fit into this category, but really, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is first and foremost a love story. But not of the sickening kind.

Set in the 1950s and the aftermath of World War II, the narrative follows Penelope Wallace, an 18 year old girl who lives with her beautiful mother and eccentric brother in Milton Magna House, Wiltshire. Penelope and Inigo’s father was killed in the war, leaving his wife to raise the children alone in the lonely old house, which is proving both its lonely and old status… it is slowly crumbling and they simply haven’t the money to do anything about it.

Penelope’s life really begins when she meets whirlwind Charlotte at a bus stop. They form an odd but instant friendship and begin immediately to get into scrapes and disrupt lives. Charlotte is closer to her Aunt Clare than her own man-eater of a mother, so they spend their time between Milton Magna and Aunt Clare’s, where Penelope meets Harry, Clare’s son and Charlotte’s cousin. She immediately dislikes him and his sarcasm, and his way of making her feel small and insignificant.

Charlotte unashamedly leads Penelope astray, and they begin to drink, smoke and attend society parties, where Penelope meets all kinds of undesirable people, and some who aren’t so undesirable. However, Penelope only truly has eyes for Johnnie Ray, the superstar of the moment. He is the man all young women lust after and dream of marrying.

Soon enough, though, Penelope begins to meet other, more readily available men and she has her head turned, and her heart broken. Will Penelope ever get her man and live happily ever after? And what will become of the crumbling but stunning old house that has been her home since childhood? And how on earth do Penelope’s mother and Aunt Clare know each other? Why the secrecy? Only one way to find out.

I would definitely say this book is worth every minute you spend reading it. It’s old-fashioned but modern at the same time, and I felt really drawn into the 50s world and wanted to go to parties and flirt with rich bachelors myself. A romantic and touching page-turner. Loved it.

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