Set in the 1950s, in an England still recovering from the Second World War, THE LOST ART OF KEEPING SECRETS is the enchanting story of Penelope Wallace and her eccentric family at the start of the rock’n’roll era. Penelope longs to be grown-up and to fall in love; but various rather inconvenient things keep getting in her way. Like her mother, a stunning but petulant beauty widowed at a tragically early age, her younger brother Inigo, currently incapable of concentrating on anything that isn’t Elvis Presley, a vast but crumbling ancestral home, a severe shortage of cash, and her best friend Charlotte’s sardonic cousin Harry…
This is chick-literature set in the 1950s; and for me that worked. We get a look at life in England in the 1950s, just as rationing is coming to an end through the eyes of an eighteen-year old girl. I found this fascinating – looking at how people lived after the war, and how rationing and America influenced lives. I loved the history in this book – how Rice explores the generation born into the War; how they were worried about what life would be like without War, and how they reacted once rationing was ended. It made me chuckle that the thing Penelope missed most was Cadbury’s chocolate! The other issue I found interesting was how the adults didn’t seem taken with America. The parents in the book all seemed suspicious of the country, whereas the children didn’t have any problems with the nation. I also liked how this book taught me things – such as who Johnnie Ray was – the guy who was popular before Elvis took his crown.
This was not a quick read but enjoyable. This is chick-lit, but more complex as it has the historical element. It was a bit predictable, but Penelope’s mother took me by surprise. I liked the characters and how we see Penelope slowly grow up. I wasn’t a fan of Harry, but Rice wrote so well I enjoyed not liking him! Charlotte and Penelope’s friendship was a joy to read about as well – I love the idea of going round to your friend’s aunt’s home for scones and tea! I wanted to live in Penelope’s house as well, and it broke my heart to read of its decay; although I liked how Rice was realistic about how women were struggling to keep houses and to live above the borderline after they lost their husbands in the War.
This was an easy read and I enjoyed it. It was touching as well, looking at how different people, different generations and different nationalities coped after World War Two.