Last weekend I was on a quest to find the best comfort book, due to being confined to the couch unable to do much besides sit wrapped up in a comfy blanket in the company of tea. I progressed fairly well through a number of books, but The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets — although I only started it at the very end of that weekend — definitely won the title.
Last year while I was visiting Ana in the UK, she pushed this book on me with the assurance that I would love it. Now, I have come to trust Ana’s recommendations blindly over the years – and she was definitely right.
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is set in the 1950′s and begins with Penelope Wallace meeting her best friend Charlotte quite by accident when Charlotte insists she takes a cab with her and joins her at her aunt’s for tea. From there on out, the story follows Penelope in her developing friendship with Charlotte, her navigation of the complicated scheme set up by Charlotte’s cousin Harry, her helplessness as she watches her unhappy mother struggling to overcome her father’s death in the war leaving her with a crumbling and large ancestral home, and her relationship with her brother Inigo who only has ears for Elvis Presley.
There is something about Penelope’s story that is utterly charming. Perhaps it is to do with the fact that there is a love story, but it never becomes front and centre. Instead, this is a book about all sorts of relationships, with family and definitely friendship taking centre stage over any crush or love Penelope has or feels. Moreover, as Ana explains in her review, it is interesting that the manic pixie dream girl theme is explored through a different dynamic, namely in a setting of friendship between two girls instead of a romantic relationship between boy and girl. Furthermore there is the prose that is utterly captivating. Plus, there is the description of a love for music that is so utterly true in exploring both its evocation of devotion to persons and to music’s meaning. And last but not least, there is the fact that this compares so wonderfully to I Capture the Castle. I was constantly reminded of my love for that book, which I only read in recent years,while reading The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets. At the same time, this reminder of another book never took away from the joy of loving this book on its very ow., for it is most definitely its own novel with its own story.
In conclusion: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is a wonderful, wonderful book. It felt like coming home and it made me want to only read books like this from here on out. If only I could find them. I am now debating whether or not I should move on to The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp right away, or if I should keep it on my shelves a little longer to make sure I have the perfect comfort read waiting for me when I need it. Meanwhile, I have Amanda Applewood’s I Love Boys album on repeat, for as Ana told me, Amanda Applewood and Eva Rice are one and the same. Just imagine: being able to combine writing wonderful books and make lovely music