The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
This book was exactly what I was looking for—a combination of two of my favorite novels, Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle and Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love. What I love about many British novels, like those by Smith and Mitford, is that everyone’s just so proper—properly eccentric, that is. Rice’s American debut is also host to many eccentric, witty, and intriguing characters.
It’s 1954 in England, war rationing is still a reality, and life has yet to fully return to ‘normal.’ Penelope Wallace, whose father died in the war, lives at Milton Magna Hall, a once-grand mansion home that was requisitioned by soldiers during the war, with her beautiful mother and music-obsessed younger brother, Inigo. Penelope has lived a quiet, uneventful life in Magna until she meets a girl at the bus stop who invites her to hop in a cab with her and come to tea at her Aunt Clare’s. Charlotte is a spark, a girl with “a great gift for circumnavigating normal behavior,” with a winsome humor and style. Penelope has no idea why she has been called out: “She was the sort of person one reads about in novels yet rarely meets in real life, and if this was the beginning of the novel—well!” Charlotte brings Penelope out of her shell and opens her up to new experiences. Penelope and Charlotte form a real bond from their chance encounter, and Charlotte begins to bring Penelope out of her shell. As a result, Penelope gets quite mixed up with Aunt Clare’s aspiring magician son, Harry. Harry is in love with a wealthy American and he ropes Penelope into his attempts to break off the engagement. Penelope just might be falling for Harry in the process, but her real heartthrob is American singer, Johnnie Ray. This is a delightful, utterly charming coming-of-age novel that’s pure enjoyment. A perfect summer read.