Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice

 review by Maryom

When Penelope decides to share a cab ride with a complete stranger she's taking a leap in the dark, one that will change her life. For the two girls bond instantly over a shared adoration of singer heart-throb Johnny Ray, and as her new friend Charlotte whisks Penelope away for tea with her Aunt Clare and cousin Harry, it's like the opening up of a whole new world for Penelope. Both girls share the same upper class world of stately homes and empty bank accounts but Charlotte is vivacious, impulsive, and confident - all things that Penelope feels she isn't - and more embracing of the new post-war world where a girl doesn't merely need to find a husband but can make a career of her own. Penelope's view of the world is tinted by the romance of her parents' love affair, tragically cut short when her father was killed during the war. One day Penelope hopes such love will come her way, but meanwhile there's Johnny Ray to sigh over, parties to attend, new American rock'n'roll to discover and the puzzle of Charlotte's cousin Harry to work out. A little against her will, Penelope is dragged into a charade with him, pretending to be his new girlfriend, with the aim of Harry winning back the girl who dumped him. Playing at being in love is dangerous though .... and maybe soon it moves on to being less of a pretence...

 Set in the 1950s post-war world where crumbling ancestral homes and penniless aristocrats rub up against Teddy boys and rock'n'roll, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is a delightful coming of age story, filled with the romance of first love, the glamour of champagne parties and all the excitement of being 18.
Written in the first person, it has an engaging gossipy style that makes you feel as if Penelope were your best friend sharing confidences with you. I loved it when I first read it and having just re-read it, love it still.

 First published ten years ago, I discovered The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets sometime between then and now, but it's coming out in a special anniversary edition with a new cover and an extra short story telling the tale of how Penelope's parents met. I'm now torn, do I stick with my old original copy or abandon it in favour of the new? I'm actually hoping that the short story on its own will become available as an e-book, so I don't have to choose.

 Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Headline Review
Genre - coming of age, adult/teen crossover

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