The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets – Eva Rice

“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 crumblng ancestral home, a severe shortage of cash, and her best friend Charlotte’s sardonic cousin Harry…”

You’ll get lost in the fun, frivolous world Eva Rice creates – I know I did. By the time I’d reached the first chapter and met protagonist Penelope, who lives with her mother Talitha and brother Inigo in Milton Magna House, and stranger-turned-friend Charlotte, I was immersed in the fifties. I wanted to have heavy blonde hair and spend shillings on stockings and lipstick.

A novel embellished with flippant and airy tales whilst hitting home with Penelope’s family’s debt, the death of her father during the war and relationships going woefully wrong, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is a literary treat. Eva Rice keeps the reader hooked with fresh, witty dialogue and excellent characterisation. You can’t make people like Charlotte, Harry and Aunt Clare up – unless you’re Eva (it probably helps that she’s the daughter of lyricist Tim Rice).

I followed Penelope and Charlotte’s heady (and often alcohol-fuelled) jaunts with much pleasure. The surreal but fabulous events throughout kept me delighted until the end – which was tied up about with just the right amount of ambiguousness and happy-ever-after, despite the sad passing of legendary Aunt Clare, who leaves her fascinating memoirs as her legacy. Enjoy with something frightfully indulgent and lapsang souchong (served in bone china, naturally).

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