I was born to be a teenager in the 1950s. The fashion, the glamour! I can see myself in neat, pleated skirts or beautiful silk-lined party dresses. Perhaps an eye-catching overcoat to fit over that carefully tailored, tweed look. Or maybe a sleek pencil skirt. OK, to be absolutely honest, I’m entirely too messy, clumsy, and lazy to pull off that tidy, accessorized look. But, hey, I can appreciate the era. Jazz music makes way for the arrival of new rock n roll pioneers…Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and that lady-killer Elvis Presley. And the movie stars at the time! They make me swoon. James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Paul Newman. What could be better? I can dream all I want, but the fact of the matter is I live in the 2000s. Luckily, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice allowed me, at least for a few short days, to enter the posh world of post-WWII London.
The strict rationing and haunting atmosphere of war is giving way to the rise of consumerism and excess. Teenagers emerge as a strong social force, trying to find balance between the social expectations of their parents with their own rebellious inclinations. Plot-wise, there’s nothing really groundbreaking here. It’s essentially a typical coming of age story, where our 18-year-old heroine Penelope Wallace unknowingly falls in love with an unlikely fellow, leaving behind the naïveté of her childhood. Penelope starts going to ‘smart dinner parties,’ mingles with a handsome American record producer, takes tea with a kooky aunt and her magician son, hosts picnics in the snow, and goes on shopping sprees at Selfridges. In short, she starts tasting life for the first time.
With witty dialogue and quirky, memorable characters, Eva Rice has written not just a book, but a lovely and engrossing world. So while it may not be high-brow Literature (but really, who wants that all the time?), The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets absolutely sparkles. It’s well-written, guilt-free fluff. Gourmet cotton candy. A great summer read.