Regular readers will know that this is quite unlike the dark books I usually read but I chose this on a whim drawn no doubt by the pretty cover.
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is set in the 1950s where eighteen year old Penelope Wallace lives with her beautiful mother Talitha and her younger brother Inigo in the formerly magnificent Milton Magna. One day she has a chance meeting with the lively Charlotte who takes her to tea with her aunt and cousin in Kensington. Meeting Charlotte changes Penelope’s life, here is a girl nearly as tall as she is, but one with style and a love of life and Aunt Clare is the kind of friend everyone should have while making the transition from girl to woman.
I’m not going to pretend that this is anything but a light read, but set as it is in the period following the war, a war which claimed the life of Penelope’s father and meant that their already perilous financial circumstances became further reduced, the family are on the cusp of a changing world. The book is shot through with pop music and good old Elvis Presley is featured in the form of American records bought over by Talitha’s brother-in-law.
Penelope’s and Charlotte’s friendship is touching, being mutually supportive and fun and I was easily drawn into the world they created where meeting their favourite pop star was worth almost anything. It was Penelope that paid the price for those magical tickets by pretending to be Cousin Harry’s girlfriend, the aim being that he would make his ex-girlfriend so jealous that she would return to him rather than marrying some chinless wonder. There are some wonderful scenes with some over-privileged youngsters being quietly mocked by the girls but nothing so nasty that it stops the feel-good factor that this book positively radiates.
Talitha’s story is the sadder part, she is lost without her beloved husband, still very young and beautiful she is overwhelmed by money worries but not so much so that she doesn’t have her extravagant moments. She clearly loves her children but doesn’t necessarily understand them, particularly Inigo’s desire to play the guitar and listen to records rather than concentrate on his schoolwork. I wasn’t as convinced by Inigo’ s character, he seemed far too mature and worldly wise to be only sixteen but his desire to keep his mother happy was nothing if not commendable.
All in all this is the perfect summer read if like me you want to lose yourself in a story that is charming and entertaining if entirely predictable.
I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for allowing me to read a copy of this book before it’s tenth anniversary publication on 1 July 2015.