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The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets Paperback – March 27, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (March 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452288096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452288096
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #882,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An impulsive taxi ride with a stranger in 1950s London indelibly changes Penelope Wallace's life in Rice's sparkling debut. At 18, Penelope lives with her younger brother, Inigo, and her terribly glamorous, young widowed mother in a drafty, rundown, English estate house in the countryside. With the loss of the man of the house, financial pressures mount, threatening sheltered Penelope's family manse—and what's left of her family's place in society. She finds a kindred spirit in the outspoken posh Londoner, Charlotte Ferris, who has a "great gift for circumnavigating normal behavior," when they both reveal their passion for American singing sensation Johnnie Ray. After agreeing to accompany Charlotte's aspiring magician cousin, Harry Delancy, to his former girlfriend's engagement party to make her jealous, Penelope begins her journey through a world of smart parties, fashionable teas and simmering romance. With élan and insight into human foibles (and postwar Anglo-British relations), Rice, daughter of lyricist Tim Rice, ties the Wallace and Delancy families together with a surprising, bittersweet plot twist. Rice's remarkable gift for creating singular characters in this memorable story underscores her presence as a fresh new voice in fiction. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Rice's third novel cannot quite make up its mind whether it is a true coming-of-age story or a comedy of manners. The story centers on the friendship between Penelope and Charlotte, two teens in post-World War II England. Penelope lives in a crumbling mansion with her mother and her rock-and-roll-loving brother, Inigo. Charlotte and her cousin, Harry, quickly draw the pair into the London social scene. When Penelope reluctantly agrees to pose as Harry's girlfriend to make the American socialite who broke his heart jealous, it comes as no surprise that the two end up developing real feelings for one another. The rise of the rock-and-roll era serves as a backdrop to the romantic goings-on, and readers get a thorough education in Elvis Presley precursor Johnnie Ray. The champagne flows freely. This glimpse into the high society of a bygone era is charming and witty enough to gain a following among lovers of British literature.–Kim Dare, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Each turn of the plot was just a bit too predictable.
JGrace
Just the kind of book that when you read the first page, you want it to go on for forever.
Joey Billups
Not only is the story funny and interesting, the characters are absolutely engaging.
Sarah Strohmeyer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Chick with Book on July 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Ever read a book that you don't want to end? I actually put down THE LOST ART OF KEEPING SECRETS for weeks at a time - so not because it lost my interest and I didn't want to flip pages - because I wanted to savor it, keep it as a treat for when lesser books let me down.

THE LOST ART OF KEEPING SECRETS beautifully evokes England post World War II, as a shell-shocked nation comes out of rationing and the second half of the 20th century beckons. Eighteen year old Penelope Wallace lives in her family's ancestral home, a centuries' old stately house called Milton Magna, which is falling down around her family's ears. There is no money to fix Magna as her father was killed in the war, and her mother, Talitha, is a famous beauty who married very young and remains somewhat immature and impractical. It's up to Penelope and her younger brother Inigo to save the house, but Inigo yearns to play guitar in America. He is constantly being sent down from school for playing his records, especially the ones featuring an obscure new singer named Elvis Presley.

Penelope's sheltered life changes when she meets Charlotte Ferris, a sophisticated London resident who takes a shine to the country girl. Before long Penelope is pulled into Charlotte's world, meeting her Aunt Clare, who is writing her autobiography, and Clare's son Harry. Harry is an amateur magician who performs for haute London society, and he is madly in love with an American heiress. When the heiress announces her engagement to a perfectly respectful but staid member of the British aristocracy, Harry schemes to get her back - by using Penelope to make her jealous (and dangling tickets to Penelope's crush object, the American singer Johnny Ray, as bait). But is Penelope's heart as immune to Harry's charm as she insists?
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Janeite on June 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This lovely book is a perfect follow-up to Dodie Smith's 50-year old favorite, I Capture the Castle. The heroines, Cassandra of ICTC & Penelope of Secrets, are similar in many ways. Both are enchanting young women of special birth & impecunious circumstances who explore first love as only the English can. The innocence of emerging womanhood is deftly handled by both authors. I loved having the opportunity to "revisit" a Cassandra clone & see first love again, this time when the heroine is a year or two older & better equipped to properly fall for the hero.

Lovely books, both of them. I strongly recommend I Capture the Castle as a delightful chaser - or "prequel" - to The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Legal Knitter VINE VOICE on June 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book has a lot of easy things to like, with engaging characters clinging to the edges of a sparkling London life. What hooked me right away and kept me going, however, was how this book rewards careful readers. The surface of shopping trips to Selfridge's floats on emotions that are expressed with remarkable subtlety. For example, why are duck dinners such an ordeal for the family? Skip one passing reference in the book, and fail to think about what it means, and you'll miss the answer. It reminded me of Ishiguro's "Remains of the Day," but with a feminine voice. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By HaDice on May 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is such a refreshing distraction from other novels currently being shoved down our throats. I adored the introduction of Charlotte and Harry, but was slightly disppointed by Harry's vanishing act in the last 1/3 of the book. I was also surprised by Penelope's desire and willingness to have guests at Magna while it was in such a state of disrepair.

Each character was beautifully written. Every one of them had much to offer to this story. I judge a book by whether or not I want the story to continue past the last page, and this one passed the test.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Strohmeyer on April 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
I absolutely loved this book. Never mind that I am a Daphne Du Maurier fan, it stands apart. Not only is the story funny and interesting, the characters are absolutely engaging. So engaging that you feel as if they are good friends. Plus there's a subtle thread of mystery that runs throughout. I can see why this book was such a big hit in England. We need more books like it in the states. It's really quite unusual. I hated to see it end.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on May 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Eighteen-year-old Penelope Wallace is quietly biding her time. Clanking around the ramshackle, drafty, disintegrating medieval manor house she shares with her widowed mother, the legendarily beautiful Talitha, Penelope works part time in an antique store and takes classes in literature and art in preparation for a trip to Italy.

Penelope's somewhat staid life changes in an instant when she meets the effervescent, confident, utterly infectious Charlotte: "Charlotte...was all possibilities. She was the sort of person one reads about in novels yet rarely meets in real life." Almost before she knows it, Penelope is drawn into Charlotte's frivolous, flirtatious lifestyle of parties with young London's fashionable set.

Penelope also encounters Charlotte's cousin Harry, a somewhat eccentric aspiring magician. Bereft after the love of his life, Marina, became engaged to another man, Harry concocts a plan to make Marina jealous and thereby win her back. The bait? Penelope herself, who agrees to accompany Harry to parties to rouse Marina's envy.

Before long, Penelope discovers that her feelings for Harry might go beyond mere playacting. In the meantime, how can she cheer up her still-grieving mother and save their family's estate? In a plot as whimsical as Charlotte herself, family secrets, hidden loves, and even an American screenwriter play pivotal roles.

Set in London and the countryside in 1955, THE LOST ART OF KEEPING SECRETS is infused with the manners and rapidly shifting morals of that tumultuous decade. Obsessed with American culture --- Penelope's aunt from the States is fascinating to her, as are rumors of an unknown singer named Elvis Presley --- Penelope and her friends stand on the verge of a post-war way of life about to disappear.
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