Dr. Zhivago and the CIA

If you think those two subjects don’t go together, think again. There is a definite connection. It is addressed wonderfully in Lara Prescott’s historical fiction The Secrets We Kept. Prescott researched author Boris Pasternak and Olga Ivinskaya, his lover and his muse for his iconic character Lara. There is extensive research available on these individuals. She also researched the connection with the CIA who had copies of Dr.Zhivago smuggled into the USSR in the Cold War. Why, you might ask. I always saw Dr. Zhivago (book and movie) as wonderful love story situated in snowy Russia. However, Pasternak was very critical of the Russian Revolution and Stalin in particular. Threads of anti-communism run throughout the novel. What I never realized was the USSR banned the publication and was furious when Pasternak and Olga Ivinskaya had the manuscript smuggled to the Italian book publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinella. This set off a hail storm in the USSR because Dr. Zhivago was an instant international bestseller. And all this time, I just thought it was a Russian love story with Omar Shariff and Julie Christie!

Lara Prescott’s novel addresses all the CIA connections, as well as the personal lives of Pasternak and Olga Ivinskaya, including her time in the Gulag which was an attempt to intimidate him. What makes The Secrets We Kept even more interesting is the backstory or maybe it’s the front story of the female employees of the CIA. Many had been active in the OSS during WW2, but after the war, these women were relegated to the typing pool. Prescott sets up her book in such an interesting way. Sections are labeled East or West because she is basically telling two sides of the same story. Sections on the East are about Russia and the goings-on there, and the West sections pertain to the female CIA employees, particularly Sally Forrester and Irina, an American born daughter of Russian emigres. Sally had been a spy with the OSS and helped train Irina as a spy who was instrumental in getting Dr. Zhivago smuggled into the USSR. These two women have an interesting relationship that develops outside the office. Prescott has a lot of respect for these women in the CIA who had done so much during the war and then were put back “in their place” afterwards. Again, it’s a story I didn’t know much about until now.

The Secrets We Kept is Prescott’s debut novel. I look forward to seeing what else she produces in the future. The subject matter and style of this book shows me how creatively she thinks and processes information. If you a Dr. Zhivago fan, this book is a must. If you are a fan of a good spy novel, this book is a must. If you like a good book you can’t put down, this book is a must.

Ponderings: My Christmas prayer is hope and healing for our country and many blessings for you and your family. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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