Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets / Eva Rice
Headline, 2005.
448 p.

This last week has been all about comfort reading for me, and here's a book I'd specifically saved -- on Danielle's recommendation -- for a comfort read. It was wonderful. I bookmooched this one from Ireland, so read it in this edition with the rather sweet UK cover (I prefer this one to the North American cover).

Set in 1950's England, it tells the story of Penelope Wallace and her rock'n'roll obsessed younger brother, Inigo. The Wallaces live in a huge crumbling English country house, Milton Magna, their father's legacy to them. Their father was killed in WWII, leaving behind these two children, and their beautiful young mother, the grieving widow. He's also left a severe shortage of funds. As the story begins, Penelope meets Charlotte Ferris "in London one afternoon while waiting for the bus." This event changes her life, as the wacky Charlotte drags her along for tea to her Aunt Clare's, where Penelope also meets Clare's son Harry, slightly older and eccentric, who performs as a parlour magician for extra pocket money. Charlotte and Harry travel in exalted social circles and their friendship draws Penelope into a whirlwind of adventure and expanded acquaintance. She even meets a few brash Americans...

The tone of the book, as blurbed on the cover, does have shades of I Capture the Castle in its self-aware heroine, living in a crumbling ancestral home with no money, fascinated by Americans and focused on love. But it is also very much a book of the 1950's, revealing a rock-and-roll craze that I don't often associate with England. Full of eccentric English characters, revealing social conditions, ancient houses, True Love, teatime and Selfridge's, I greatly enjoyed this lovely and unusual novel. It was quite charming, in a good way.

I only had a couple of problems with it. First, I am not sure I agreed with the tidy (but rather fraudulent) solution to their woes at the conclusion. Also, the title didn't seem to fit, altogether, as the secrets which were being kept were pretty obvious early on and didn't seem very alarming or world-changing. Still, this was an entertaining read, perfect for my mood.

See what others have thought about it:

Danielle's Review

Bookbath's Review

Stuck in a Book's Review

Cindy's Interview with Eva Rice


  1. This does sounds like a nice, light book to curl up with. I loved I Capture the Castle. I'm adding it to my ever-growing list.

  2. I enjoyed this one so much, too. It is a wonderful comfort read--something I'm indulging in lots lately. I love the UK cover, too! Maybe I need to reread I Capture the Castle now....

  3. Teresa - it was a great book to curl up with.

    Danielle - thanks for the tip off on this one. I was just thinking I'd like to reread I Capture the Castle as well. Have you read any of Dodie Smith's plays?


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