Soon Penelope and Charlotte are inseparable. Penelope can not remember a time when she had not known Charlotte and, thanks to Charlotte, Harry as well. They spend weekends together doing normal teenage things: listening to records all night long, talking, and drinking way too much. Even though the book is set in the 1950s, these characters are timeless and the themes universal.
Harry one night convinces Penelope to go to a fancy party with him as his date, to make the American girl jealous. Although at first she doesn’t want to, in the end Penelope goes and has a lovely time. It is the first of several encounters where Penelope must act as if she is in love with Harry and he with her. But in the end who is really acting?
Then there is Milton Magna (the ancient home of Penelope’s family), her brother Inigo, Rocky the very sexy older American, glittery parties with social butterflies, a Rothko, a very early Elvis Presley, and of course last but not least, Johnnie Ray. Each is woven into the story so that you could not imagine it being any other way.
Filled with sharp and witty dialogue, The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets is hard to pin down as any one thing: a coming of age story, a fun girl romp, a story about the way music affects the soul, a story of true love on the grandest scale. It is those things and much more besides. The end has a hint of Rebecca in it, which, along with many other wonderful novels, is referenced throughout these completely delightful pages, and by the end I felt as if Charlotte and Harry were my friends and I had come to know Penelope almost as well as myself. Can a simple taxi ride really change the course of your life? I can only shrug and ask, ‘Why not?’