The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
Published by Headline Review
1st July 2015
Set in the 1950s, in an England still recovering from the Second World War, this is the enchanting story of Penelope Wallace and her eccentric family at the start of the rock'n'roll era.
Penelope longs to be grown-up and to fall in love, but various rather inconvenient things keep getting in her way. Like her mother, a stunning but petulant beauty widowed at a tragically early age, her younger brother Inigo, currently incapable of concentrating on anything that isn't Elvis Presley, a vast but crumbling ancestral home, a severe shortage of cash, and her best friend Charlotte's sardonic cousin Harry...
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets was originally published ten years ago, but I somehow missed out on reading it until last month when it was reissued by Headline Review. Billed as perfect for those who have loved and enjoyed books by Nancy Mitford I knew I was pretty much going to fall in love with it from the outset.
Penelope Wallace is waiting at the bus stop one cold November morning in 1954, when she is approached by a young woman of about her age asking if she would like to share a taxi. Whilst it is not normally Penelope's style to go galivanting off with strangers, something about this woman intrigues her and she agrees. This is to be the beginning of a wonderful friendship with Charlotte Ferris, her aunt Clare and her cousin Harry.
Penelope's life is somewhat reminiscent of the of Cassandra in I Capture the Castle, as she lives in a dilapidated stately home with her exceptionally beautiful, and young, mother Talitha, and her brother Inigo, who dreams of being a rock star.
The girls are initially drawn together by their love for musician Johnnie Ray (who I must confess I had never heard of) but it turns out they have more in common than they initally think, especially when it turns out that Aunt Clare once knew Christopher Jones, a friend of Penelope's late father.
This is a wonderful novel, full of beauty and glamour, and hardship at the end of the Second World War, where rationing was still imposed and where the young, who had grown up in a world living through a war, don't really know what to do with themselves. It's also a time of music, and of course, of the wonderful Elvis Presley.
If you didn't catch The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets the first time around, I urge you to grab a copy, put your feet up and indulge yourself in it now.
Miss Chapter x