Galina Reviews: “A Double Life” by Charlotte Philby

A good book always makes a great gift, to self or to others, but in pandemic times books also offered salvation, when we all were stuck inside and looking for ways to calm down or be distracted from the sea of worries bubbling in our minds. I was lucky to get an advance copy of Charlotte Philby second book “A Double Life” during the height of lockdown – a huge “thank you” to Royal Mail for delivering it super quickly. And what a treat of riveting suspense from page one right till the end it turned out to be!

advance copy of Charlotte Philby’s second book “A Double Life”

I reviewed Charlotte’s first book “The Most Difficult Thing” last year, so my expectations, let’s be honest here, were running high. Having also met Charlotte in person earlier this year, when she interviewed writer Lucy Foley, I also had a little bit more of a connection to her as a person. Petit, ludicrously young and energetic – a mother of three already no less, Charlotte is also an accomplished journalist, her latest articles featured in the August edition of Elle UK and online on Grazia UK website. But now she is also a truly wonderful writer, who deservedly is gathering accolades from the book critics left, right & centre. A result of talent and determination, as well as clear love & dedication to the discipline of writing. Animated & engaging, she reminds me a little bit of Tigger, as I can’t imagine Charlotte sitting still, always on the move, searching and researching. And yet, ” A Double Life” is Charlotte’s second book, with the third in the process of being written already.

Charlotte Philby (on the right) interviewing author Lucy Foley in February

” This book expertly combines two story-lines, developed with attention to the smallest detail. You won’t be able to put it down until you get to the last full stop!”

Galina AP

Synopsis of the book swings between two women. Gabriela, a senior negotiator in the FCO’s counter-terrorism unit, runs a small and powerful team based in Whitehall. She is tenacious, hard-working and the main breadwinner. Her partner Tom, a freelance architect, is the one who looks after the children, balancing school, playdates and social diaries. Many things and events are not what they seem and that’s even before Gabriela goes on a seven-month work trip to Moscow.

Isobel is a journalist working for the local paper in Camden. Walking home from a party one night, she witnesses a horrific attack. As days go by, it becomes vividly clear that someone knows about what she has seen. Undeterred, Isobel digs her heels in and investigates, uncovering through her own network of professional connections a dark network of human trafficking and exploitation.

While Gabriela’s life is unravelling with every consecutive chapter, Isobel is edging closer to completing her investigation. One woman desperate to uncover, the other determined to hide the truth. I drank this book like a thirsty nomad walking through the dessert. Reading late into the night, squirming and trying to predict, yet failing, the dramatic twists and turns of people’s actions. Wondering how much can one turn up the heat underneath herself, before personal worlds explode, crashing and burning those in close proximity.

in good company on the Waterstone’s shelf

Charlotte paints and brings to life two convincingly compelling storylines, each as strong as the other. Examining lives of modern women, precarious balance of work and personal relationships, friendships that last or go astray and ways that society structures works. Taking you around London and beyond, as well as to the heart of Moscow, with the occurrence of events that are bound to make you shudder, squirm and almost close your eyes before moving on to the next sentence. Charlotte’s description of Moscow brought some of my own memories close the surface, reminding me of the energy in the streets and the heightened atmosphere of popular meeting places.

This book is quite different from Charlotte’s first one, standing independently on its own talented legs. At times I almost struggled to believe that both were penned by the same person – a sure sign that they are written by a very talented & versatile author, who clearly doesn’t rest on her creative laurels, evolving her writing from one book to the next. A summer must read, there is no two ways about it!

“A Double Life” by Charlotte Philby is published on July 9th by the Borough Press / Harper Collins, pp 452, £12.99

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