“The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets” by Eva Rice

We all know that February is the Tuesday of the year. We are almost there, folks, hang in there. I am in the process of almost going back to normal life. I went out with Captain Lunch for the first time in two and a half years and I even went to a café for a brunch, which sounds so civilized. Next week we even get the visit of some friends from France, how exotic! Nice way to celebrate the end of the most miserable month of the year. This book also helped by the way.

What is it about?

Penelope has a very fancy name and an even fancier house, and a very good looking widowed mum (this is relevant to the story). The setting is the early Fifties, when the world (and England) were finally waking up from the war. Penelope meets Charlotte and Harry, who are considered to be very cool (if that word existed in the Fifties) but who are not very rich. Penelope herself has got some pedigree but she is also as poor as a rat (expression borrowed from the Spanish language). Through her friendship Charlotte and Harry, she learns how to be a proper young person and live the life of an eighteen year old girl: getting drunk a lot, smoking a lot (different times) and listening to a lot of rock’n’roll.

What makes it good?

I am not sure how to classify this one, if I had to. It is not quite a romance and it is not quite historical fiction. Looking back at it, we could probably classify it almost as Young Adult fiction. Penelope’s storyline is definitely a coming of age one, related in a light and yet meaningful way. There are absolutely no sharp edges here, even if subjects like loss and bereavement are accosted and are an integral part of the story. I don’t mean this as a bad thing, necessarily. But if you are looking for some grit, look somewhere else. We are facing a story written in pastel colours about a nice young well off girl from the outside of London. And it is no bad things. Cup of tea and blanket book, 100%.

The style

Written in first person, and in my personal crusade against stuff written in first person for no reason, I don’t quite see it why the first person is needed here as a narrative device. But Penelope gives us the point of view of a “normal”(albeit still upper class) girl who is not that person who captures all the attention and is special (Charlotte in this case) but still manages to have a lot of adventures even if it is in the shadow of that one extraordinary friend she has. Besides this, the novel is very nicely and even if Penelope clearly “writes” it much later in her life (she wanted to be a writer, ugh, a bit on the nose, no?) it is still easy to slip in its vintage setting, thanks to the use of the right words and expression from that time.

Final Mark

Another winter cozy, definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you love your Jane Austen, your Little Women and Jane Eyre (although Jane is some tough bitch and on an altogether different level of wonderfulness – love you Jane), then you will enjoy this one.

6.5/10

On Goodreads.

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