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Review by Suze
It's 1954 and Penelope has a pretty boring life. She lives with her mother, who constantly wants to shine, and music crazy brother Inigo in Magna, a huge house that they can't afford any longer. When she meets Charlotte Penelope knows she's found her new best friend. Charlotte is adventurous and makes Penelope's days a lot brighter. Her handsome cousin Harry is good at charming people and wants to be a magician. They find Magna incredibly alluring and they make Penelope see her home through different eyes.
While Inigo wants to be the next Elvis Presley, Penelope is a fan of Johnnie Ray and her big dream is to meet him some day. Penelope's mother struggles with the upkeep of the house she inherited from her late husband, who died during the war, and tries to escape as often as she can. Penelope and Inigo try to find themselves while the world they know is slowly falling apart. With Charlotte and Harry by their side their future looks better and brighter, but will it actually remain that way or will Magna destroy the lives of the people who once loved it so much?
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is a beautiful story. I loved reading about what it was like to be a teenager in the 1950s. It's shortly after the Second World War and people are still struggling because of it. Penelope and her family are living in both luxury and poverty at the same time, which is a remarkable contrast. Magna is an impressive house and for me it felt like an actual main character, something with a suffering heart that's barely breathing and slowly transforming, instead of just a pile of stones. It's a stately home that used to be grand, but now it's a prison for Penelope's family. Her mother is trying to keep her late husband's legacy alive, but there isn't any money left. It's a problem a lot of former large households used to have and it was interesting to read about.
Eva Rice writes about eccentric people. The only one who's always well-behaved is Penelope, but being alive is compelling and she doesn't want to be just a boring good girl. She wants to go to balls, she'd love to be at a live concert, she wants to experience love and she's looking for a more exciting existence than the one she used to have, which is a fabulous and fascinating search. I loved Eva Rice's sense of humor and The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets often made me smile because of everything that happens to the main characters, which is often quite common and entirely believable, but bizarre at the same time.
The ending of The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is brilliant, it couldn't have been more perfect and it's the part of the book that I enjoyed the most. The story gives a romantic view of Penelope's life, but there are many more ingredients that are making it the great novel it is. There's so much attention for detail, while the story still has a nice pace. I kept being surprised by unexpected twists and turns and there's never a dull moment. The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is an amazing book and I highly recommend it.
If you like to read about stately homes, eccentric people, post-war life filled with music and plenty of romance and beauty that is gorgeously written and fabulously fun, you should definitely read The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets.