A DOUBLE LIFE by CHARLOTTE PHILBY

This psychological thriller is an interesting read, though a little patchy in parts and perhaps a little uneven. There is a wealth of detail given to us in the opening chapters of the book, the minutiae of family life, of office life, of streets, of playground politics – and the texture of the story is carefully laid out for us. But all of a sudden, the story gallops to an abrupt end.

I certainly didn’t see the ending coming at all – not helped by reading it on a kindle, since the physical book is not yet available in India, where I live. I suppose had I been reading a book, I’d have seen that I was approaching the end, but on the kindle it just crept up on me, and I stared at the screen, a tad nonplussed.

“A Double Life” follows the lives of 2 women both living in London, but leading very different lives. Gabriela works for the FCO, & has 2 young children with her partner Tom, and lives in her old home, left to her by her parents. Tom is a freelance architect and the stay-at-home parent, while Gabriela is the principal breadwinner. Isobel lives in a dingy flat, works for a local newspaper and is haunted by demons from her recent past that lead her into drugs.

We follow the lives of these 2 women, seemingly remote and totally unconnected, increasingly aware of the gathering sense of menace hovering over both their lives. Both women discover things that shock them, that alarm them and eventually threaten them. Deceit and living with the consequences of deceit is a leitmotiv running through both their lives.

I liked the fact that the 2 main protagonists are women.

I liked the slow, inexorable build-up to whatever is threatening them both. We don’t know, but we suspect. For what it’s worth, I guessed incorrectly in both cases, testimony to Ms Philby’s story-telling prowess.

But – and there is a but -after such a slow, initial build-up, and the careful laying down of all the layers of their lives – especially Gabriela’s, I found the ending abrupt and leaving too many questions unanswered.

I was so confused by the ending that I went back to the beginning of the book (on my Kindle, remember) and saw the Prologue, and it sort of made a little more sense. But not entirely.

Conclusion?

“A Double Life” was a bit of a curate’s egg for me. Gripping in the main, but it left me perplexed at the end.

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