#BookReview #Ad Birthright by Charles Lambert @BelgraviaB

BirthrightAbout the Book

Sixteen-year-old Fiona wants for nothing: hers is a life of comfort and privilege. But not of happiness. Her already distant relationship with her mother is stretched further by the sudden death of her beloved father. When she discovers an old newspaper clipping of an unknown woman with a little girl who looks exactly like her, she sees the chance to escape and find her true family.

Aided by Patrick, her charming but manipulative boyfriend, she tracks down her sister Maddy, in Rome. And with her, the mother she always dreamed of.

But to Maddy this strange girl wearing her face seems to want more than to reconnect. She seems to be stalking her every move and wants to claim Maddy’s life for her own. Maddy wants nothing to do with this unsettingly familiar stranger. Unfortunately, those around her have other ideas.

Caught in a game of cat and mouse, Fiona and Maddy are both fascinated and repulsed by one another. But they aren’t the only ones playing and soon the girls must decide who to trust, and who to protect. Will blood prove thicker than water?

Format: Paperback (416 pages)          Publisher: Gallic Books
Publication date: 22nd March 2023 Genre: Thriller, Mystery

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My Review

I was a big fan of Charles Lambert’s previous book, The Bone Flower.  (My husband, who is not a prolific reader, gave it the thumbs up as well.)  Therefore I was pleased to be given the opportunity to read the author’s latest book.  Billed as a psychological thriller, I would say the psychological aspect is definitely the main focus of the first two thirds of the book as the author deftly explores the dynamics between two young women each of whom were previously unaware of the other’s existence.

When Fiona discovers she has a twin sister and that her mother, Anne, is not her birth mother it acts as a kind of confirmation of the reason for their fractious relationship. The woman in the newspaper photograph seems more like the caring, easygoing mother Fiona should have had, leaving her feeling she has been cheated. I have to say I did feel slightly sorry for Anne because of the cold manner with which Fiona treats her, upping sticks and moving to Rome in pursuit of Maddy. And it does seem like a pursuit, because of the degree of subterfuge involved, including a ploy which is a homage to Frederick Forsyth’s novel, The Day of the Jackal.

I confess my sympathies lay more with Maddy who suddenly finds she has a sister – an identical twin sister at that – and one who is intent on inserting herself into her life.  Fiona is convinced that, being twins, there must be a natural connection between them. ‘How wonderful it would be to share a soul, to have that bond with someone, better than love, because love can fade or turn into hate; to have something that would always be there…’ She’s always looking for opportunities to point out the similarities between them, seeming to feel that because they look identical they must be identical.  But Maddy can only see the differences.  Fiona has had a privileged, financially secure upbringing whilst Maddy’s has been a hand-to-mouth, nomadic one caused by her mother’s inability to hold down a job and growing dependence on alcohol.  Even where they live demonstrates that difference: Fiona in a smart apartment, Maddy in a small, rundown flat.  At one point, Maddy goes out of her way to demonstrate that difference.

Each of them though at some point imagines being the other. Maddy muses, ‘Maybe I should take over everything… Her life, her flat. Her money. I’d be such an improvement on the original’.  Catching a bus to Maddy’s flat, Fiona reflects that Maddy would never take a taxi. ‘Today she wanted to be Maddy, or as close to Maddy as she could get. She wanted to be the daughter her mother had chosen.’

Fiona idealises Heather, her birth mother, finding every opportunity she can to spend time alone with her, even involving her longtime friend, Ludovico, in distracting Maddy’s attention. But Maddy sees only the damaged woman she has had to singlehandedly care for.  It’s difficult enough for Fiona and Maddy to deal with the fact Heather chose to give one of them away, depriving both of them of a sister and one of them of growing up with their birth mother. But what if that’s not the whole story?

The disruptor in the story is Patrick, Fiona’s boyfriend, who we know from pretty much early on is a wrong’un.  He’s clever but that cleverness is directed towards taking advantage of opportunities to manipulate others for his own benefit.  His involvement introduces the thriller element of the book with the author really ratcheting up the tension and the melodrama as the book moves to its conclusion, whilst also leaving some tantalising questions to be resolved in the epilogue.

Birthright is an absorbing combination of suspenseful mystery and complex family drama.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Gallic Books.

In three words: Insightful, intriguing, engrossing

Try something similarMy Secret Sister by Lauren Westwood

Charles LambertAbout the Author

Charles Lambert is the author of several novels, short stories, and the memoir With a Zero at its Heart, which was voted one of The Guardian readers’ Ten Best Books of the Year in 2014. In 2007, he won an O. Henry Award for his short story The Scent of Cinnamon. His first novel, Little Monsters, was longlisted for the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His novel Prodigal was shortlisted for the Polari Prize for LGBTQ writing in 2019. Born in England, Charles Lambert has lived in central Italy since 1980. (Photo: Goodreads author page)

Connect with Charles
Website | Twitter


#WWWWednesday – 22nd March 2023


Hosted by Taking on a World of Words, this meme is all about the three Ws:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Why not join in too?  Leave a comment with your link at Taking on a World of Words and then go blog hopping!

Currently reading

A Brief History of Living ForeverA Brief History of Living Forever by Jaroslav Kalfar (eARC, Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley)

When Adela discovers she has a terminal illness, her thoughts turn to Tereza, the American-raised daughter she gave up at birth. Leaving behind her moody, grown son, Roman, in their native Czech village, she flies to the United States to find the long-lost daughter who never knew her. Yet the country, in the year 2029, is steeped in surveillance and has adopted an unapologetic nationalism—a very different place from the open and accepting one Adela experienced decades earlier, when, as a teenager high on the promise of America, she eloped with a filmmaker and starred in his cult sci-fi movie.

Now, in New York City, with time running out, Adela reunites with Tereza, who is working as the star researcher for two suspicious biotech moguls hellbent on developing a “god pill” to extend human life indefinitely. But before Tereza can find a cure for Adela, her mother dies mysteriously. Unbeknownst to Tereza, her body is whisked away by the American government to a mass grave for undocumented immigrants in the swampy wastelands of what was once Florida. Distraught, Tereza travels to the Czech Republic to convince Roman, the brother she’s never met, to join her in rescuing their mother’s remains from oblivion, with the intent of bringing her home to rest in Czech soil.

God's Children Are Little Broken ThingsGod’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (Wiedenfeld & Nicolson) Longlisted for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 2023

A man revisits the university campus where he lost his first love, aware now of what he couldn’t understand then. A daughter returns home to Lagos after the death of her father, where she must face her past – and future -relationship with his longtime partner. A young musician rises to fame at the risk of losing himself and the man who loves him.

Generations collide, families break and are remade, languages and cultures intertwine, and lovers find their ways to futures; from childhood through adulthood; on university campuses, city centres, and neighbourhoods where church bells mingle with the morning call to prayer.

Recently finished

A Complicated Matter by Anne Youngson (Doubleday)

The Settlement by Jock Serong (Text Publishing) Longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2023

The Romantic by William Boyd (Viking) Longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2023

Birthright by Charles Lambert (Gallic Books)

Sixteen-year-old Fiona inhabits a privileged world of English affluence, though her relationship with her widowed mother is strained. When she discovers an old newspaper clipping of a woman and her daughter – the little girl a mirror image of her own younger self – she becomes convinced she has a true family elsewhere. Four years later, with the help of charming fraudster Patrick, Fiona drops everything to seek out her doppelgänger in Italy.

Fiona arrives in Rome to find Maddy living hand to mouth with her alcoholic mother. Spooked by the appearance of this strange girl wearing her face and stalking her every move, Maddy wants nothing to do with her. Caught in a surreal push-and-pull, the two are both fascinated and repulsed by the oddly familiar other, each coveting a different life. But they aren’t the only ones trying to control their fate, and the two women will soon learn that people aren’t always what they seem – though blood may still prove thicker than water. (Review to follow)

What Cathy (will) Read Next

Elizabeth FinchElizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes (Vintage) 

Elizabeth Finch was a teacher, a thinker, an inspiration.

Neil is just one of many who fell under her spell during his time in her class. Tasked with unpacking her notebooks after her death, Neil encounters once again Elizabeth’s astonishing ideas on the past and on how to make sense of the present.

But Elizabeth was much more than a scholar. Her secrets are waiting to be revealed . . . and will change Neil’s view of the world forever.