This post contains affiliate links.
You can see from the pictures that this is a well read book. I have owned it for a few years now and read it multiple times, it is definitely one of my favourites.
The story follows Penelope growing up and finding her feet in the era post war with a new friend, Charlotte, at her side. It covers the glamour of the time with cocktail parties, the constant need for a new outfit and how everyone knows it is all about looking the part and being seen. I absolutely love this aspect of it and this can span over multiple decades finding links in any time. Far from the glamour, Penelope, although living in a grand house with a rich history, has a Mama who is scared to move forward into a modern world and her brother, Inigo who is desperate to lead the way. Penelope is a huge fan of singer and celebrity Johnnie Ray attending concerts and listening to vinyls on repeat and attends school where she learns literature but actually wants to be attending gatherings and climbing the social ladder.
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets certainly doesn’t fail in terms of bringing the glitz and the glamour and it puts the reader right in the centre of parties in upper class London. It tells of beautiful but damaged actresses, American film producers and famous musicians. Rice gives an edge of realism but in such a dreamy way that I’ve floated around with an air that I’m part of 1950’s high society for days after reading.
Milton Magna Hall is the home of our main character, her widowed and beautiful Mama and her Elvis loving brother. And a guinea pig. The family are rich enough to have a cook but not enough to repair the damaged, rundown large abode and save it from the leaks, cracks and torn upholstery. The description of the house gives a great insight to what living in a family estate, with no money for the upkeep, can actually mean.
The characters in the story that do have money are Rocky Dakota, American extraordinaire. He’s plays the part for both comfort and fear for other characters in the book and it comes across as if he will sort everything out. Then there is Marina, vulnerable actress but with a definite taste for drama who blames Penelope for stealing her man. Charlotte’s Aunt Clare is a woman of the world without a hint of self doubt and an all knowing of the things that are. Something about this book that I absolutely love are the characters themselves. Gracious and beautiful in places to rash and charmingly abrasive in others.
The story includes tales of love and loss right from the start. The chance meeting with Charlotte leads to her cousin Harry who is, by and large, not your typical tall dark and handsome character. More like the charismatic best friend with a mysterious aura but immediately the reader knows he’s hanging around in the story. Penelope’s Mama and Aunt Clare share someone in common and Harry has his past and future to decide between.
After reading, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets has me wanting to take to a chaise longue with a martini and slice of cake on a side table, and spend all night at glamorous parties until breakfast at dawn. In equal amounts.
I can do that right?